Tag politics (213)

link friday: Mayday PAC, science is hard, net neutrality
Mood: lonely
Posted on 2014-05-09 11:43:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 475

- The Mayday PAC to reduce the influence of money in politics. (yes, they're aware of the irony) It's a Kickstarter-esque project being run by Lawrence Lessig. I don't know how likely this is to help things, but I desperately want it to succeed so I contributed. You can learn more about it (or read the FAQ) and I'd encourage you to pledge to help US kickstart fundamental reform by reducing the influence of money in politics.

- A chart of view of homosexuality in different countries - the US comes out looking pretty good, relatively speaking. No huge surprises - Africa/Middle East are terrible, Asia somewhat less so, and go Europe! (thanks David!)

- The Control Group Is Out Of Control - interesting look at parapsychology (ESP, precognition, etc.) as the "control group" of science. If they're finding significant results, then we need to figure out what they're doing wrong. More from the "science is hard" department: Lab Rats May Be Stressed By Men, Which May Skew Experiments

- Comcast is destroying the principle that makes a competitive internet possible - a very good look at net neutrality and specifically the Netflix/Comcast fight.

- The Single Mother, Child Poverty Myth - Scandinavian countries have a similar rate of single mother families as the US, but a much smaller rate of poverty among those families due to welfare-type programs. Of course, that means that children in single mother families, through no fault of their own, are much likelier to grow up in poverty in the US. Boo. (thanks David!)

- To Divide the Rent, Start With a Triangle - hey, I'm pretty sure I saw a colloquium about this at SWT Math Camp! (blah, "Texas State", whatever) Also, props to the New York Times for putting up an interactive rent division calculator.

- Steve Jobs Defied Convention, and Perhaps the Law - Apple basically admitted to backdating options for Jobs and other senior employees, but got off with a slap on the wrist. (thanks in part to their "swift, extensive and extraordinary cooperation.") But as the article says, the bigger threat to Jobs's reputation is the numerous anti-poaching agreements Apple had with other companies. See:

That same year, Mr. Jobs wrote Eric E. Schmidt, the chief executive of Google at the time, “I would be extremely pleased if Google would stop doing this,” referring to its efforts to recruit an Apple engineer. Mr. Schmidt forwarded the email, adding his own indiscreet comment: “I believe we have a policy of no recruiting from Apple and this is a direct inbound request. Can you get this stopped and let me know why this is happening? I will need to send a response back to Apple quickly so please let me know as soon as you can.”

When Mr. Jobs learned that the Google recruiter who contacted the Apple employee would be “fired within the hour,” he responded with a smiley face.


link friday: a bunch of Obamacare stuff, and then some other things
Mood: okay
Posted on 2013-09-27 14:55:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 195

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) health exchanges open next week (if the government doesn't shut down!), so here are some interesting links about it/them:
- Final Word On Obamacare Coverage: Cheaper Than Expected - definitely some caveats here, but premiums are lower than expected. The free market at work!

- How eight lives would be affected by the health law - interesting look by the Washington Post, although of course this is a tiny sample size.

- The Plot To Kill Obamacare - this just in, Republicans will do almost anything to prevent Obamacare from happening or working.

Other things:
- Free to Be Hungry - it blows my mind that, with the growing inequality we have in the US, some people think that cutting food stamps is a good idea. (food stamps are less than $5 a day per person)

- Here Are the GOP's Debt-Ceiling Demands, and They Are Insane - the title says it all.

Other non-politics things, which you might need after the depressing state of politics these days, or at least I sure do:
- Unhappy Truckers and Other Algorithmic Problems - interesting article about optimizing routes for UPS drivers.

- A Hospital Tells Police Where Fights Happen, And Crime Drops - neat!


a ton o' links: government moneyball, disliking Ken Cuccinelli, fake vaccinations are a bad idea
Mood: tired
Posted on 2013-08-02 11:29:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 556

(wow, this might be my longest link post ever? I think I'm less choosy about links when I'm tired...)

- Just another reminder to donate so KIPP high-schoolers can have laptops at school - they're over 50% funded now, but could use your help!

- Can Government Play Moneyball? - hey, maybe government should try to be more data-driven and only spend money on things that work! What a concept... (written by government officials who worked under Obama and George W. Bush)

- Virginia governor GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli launches website that pushes for reinstatement of state's anti-sodomy law - he wants to make consensual oral or anal sex felonies, even between married couples in their own homes. Although he says the law would only be applied "to sodomy committed against minors, against non-consenting adults, or in public," that's not what the law says and how hard would it be to write a law that says that? (not hard at all, say 49 other states) And this guy is neck-and-neck in the Virginia governor race...

- Texas is not Pro-Life - a reminder that while Texas is "pro-life" if you mean "trying to make abortion illegal", we're not so much for "trying to make abortion rarer" or in a myriad of other ways.

- Pakistan Battles Polio, and Its People’s Mistrust - who would have predicted that having the CIA running a fake vaccination campaign (when they were trying to get Osama bin Laden's DNA) would hurt real vaccination campaigns? (hopefully everyone)

- Why Men Need Women - ignoring the somewhat provocative (and misleading) title, the study seems to show that proximity to baby girls makes men more generous.

- 'Crack baby' study ends with unexpected but clear result - I'll spoil it for you: poverty is a stronger effect on children than the mother using cocaine while pregnant.

- The Unprecedented, Contemptible GOP Quest to Sabotage Obamacare - see also this Tom Toles cartoon (thanks David!)

- The Rise of the Christian Left in America - here's hoping!

- It can be terrible to be a creative person on the Internet, as people are terribly abusive. This seems like a big problem and I'm not sure what you can do about it, other than cut yourself off from any feedback at all.

- Yet another good article by Atul Gawande about why some innovations spread faster than others

- The Huge Threat to Capitalism That Republicans Are Ignoring - the New York Times story the article talks about is a great example of a market failure. When your only metric is "how much money am I making?" (and not "how much value am I adding?" or something like that), that opens the door to abuses like exploiting weird regulations to move around aluminum for no purpose. Really, at that point, why not just counterfeit hundred dollar bills?

- In Lieu of Money, Toyota Donates Efficiency to New York Charity - very cool story. Yay efficiency!

- A good interview with Michael Sandel, who wrote "What Money Can't Buy", which I loved to death.

- Can You Name These Cities by Their Starbucks Locations? - fun but tough; I got 10 right with a few lucky guesses.

- Don’t Be Alarmed by the Drone Blimps Hovering Over D.C. They’re Here to Stop Cruise Missiles - this is a real thing?

- A helpful reminder from Wired to check your application permissions on Facebook, Twitter, etc. with handy links. I had built up a lot of cruft!


link friday: anger at politics, penguin galaxies, Parkinson's treatment
Mood: determined
Posted on 2013-07-12 10:44:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 356

First I'm going to get angry about politics, then some more uplifting stuff:

- Lessons of the Great Recession: How the Safety Net Performed - pretty well, although there are still a lot more people on food stamps (SNAP) than before. Speaking of which:

- House Republicans Push Through Farm Bill, Without Food Stamps - the Republicans say they'll pass a food stamps bill later, but they separated them so they can more easily put in the cuts they want. I'm really pretty angry about this. Also see: Yes, You Should Be Totally Outraged By the Farm Bill (um, hooray!)

- Remember that scandal with the IRS targeting conservative groups? It turns out they also targeted liberal groups, so that should pretty much put an end to that. Honestly, I don't mind the IRS having stricter scrutiny of tax-exempt groups that are politically oriented, and I'm not thrilled with the fact that they get tax breaks to begin with. (on both sides!)

Uplifting stuff
- State-based fun! Here's the most "significant" TV show set in every state where "significant" is defined as "whatever the guy who made the map thought" (here's the readable version of the map), and here's the most famous brand from each state. (thanks, Pai, for the latter!)

- Colliding galaxies take on the shape of a penguin guarding its egg - awwww! (thanks, Jessica!)

- No Parkinson's with the flip of a switch - wow, I had no idea we could treat Parkinson's this well!

- 8-Year-Old Little Leaguer, 31-Year-Old Professional Given Same Hitting Advice - from the Onion - the headline is the joke, but I laughed :-)

- Anatomy of a pseudorandom number generator - visualising Cryptocat's buggy PRNG - funny how a simple off-by-one error can lead to such a "broken" PRNG. Crypto is hard! (although I'm not sure how much faster you could break the crypto with this error - I guess if you're guessing what random number it picked, you have more likely places to start..)

- What Does It Take to Stop Crips and Bloods From Killing Each Other? - Interesting article from the NYTimes magazine about a new approach to curbing gang violence that seems to be working.

- A few tips for sleeping better


Minnesota passes same-sex marriage
Mood: happy
Posted on 2013-05-14 13:10:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 101

That makes three states (with Rhode Island and Delaware) in the past few weeks - the map will be getting bluer in July and August!

I was going to write something about how remarkable it was that just two years ago the Minnesota legislature passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, although it was defeated at the polls 53-47% last year. But it turns out both the amendment and the same-sex marriage bill votes were largely along party lines - the difference is that the House and Senate went from being controlled by the Republicans to the Democrats in the 2012 election. So...yeah.


long-overdue links: sexism in the tech industry, torture v. diversity, money wins elections
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2013-05-03 15:06:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 355

It's been a while, so some of these are out of date, but they're interesting, dang it!

- Caroline Shaw, a fellow Philharmonics singer at Rice, just won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music! Congratulations to her! A short article about the piece at Slate.

- The Biggest Problem in Technology - a good synopsis of the sad episode that happened at this year's PyCon. Best sentence:

Given the advantages of time, distance, and a rational mind, it is relatively easy to see that basically everybody involved erred (though some far more severely than others).

- John Yoo Criticizes Liberals for Caring More About Torture Than Diversity - when I read the headline, I thought "oh, there might be a valid point here but the headline is clearly exaggerating"...and I was wrong, the headline is dead-on. Sheeeeeesh!

- After the Jason Collins came out, these Onion articles seem especially relevant: Gay NFL Players Must Be Unknown Special Teams Guys, Says Homophobic Man, and my favorite NFL Players Support Player Coming Out, Getting Absolutely Obliterated During Games. These were published a month ago amidst rumors that a few active NFL players were going to come out - we'll see what happens!

- Ten Practical Things to Make with a 3D Printer

- Money Wins Elections - a cool visualization page in support of the American Anti-Corruption Act, which you should definitely support!

- Abusing hash kernels for wildly unprincipled machine learning - It seems almost magical that something as crude as the hash kernel he describes actually kind of works.

- Carmen Sandiego's Africa map: television's invisible, impossible shuttle run - the Africa map did seem impossible as a kid :-)

- How a banner ad for H&R Block appeared on apple.com—without Apple’s OK - an excellent reason for HTTPS everywhere!

- Pope Francis supported same-sex civil unions in Argentina in 2010 - certainly it was just a reaction to Argentina being about to approve same-sex marriage, but...wow!

- Paramount Hopes New ‘Star Trek’ Is a Global Crowd-Pleaser - I love me some Star Trek, but this article made me a lot less excited about it. Something about seeing how the sausage is made, and how they changed the plot, etc. to appeal more to international audiences.


same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court, and a ton of links
Posted on 2013-03-26 22:31:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 337

The Prop 8 case was argued today, and here's the transcript. (a reminder: as with all things politics, you probably don't want to read the comments...I say this not having read them myself, of course) The DOMA case is tomorrow. Relatedly, the Onion was on fire today: Supreme Court On Gay Marriage: 'Sure, Who Cares', and Kim Jong-Un Comes Out In Support Of Gay Marriage: 'I'm Not A Monster', and most hilariously I Feel Very Strongly About The Issue Of Same Sex Marriage Because I Have A Gay Son (an editorial by God)

Relatedly, Nate Silver looks at the percentage of people that support same-sex marriage (it seems to be growing at around 1.5% a year), and even at CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) it seems they recognize same-sex marriage is the future.


- Invading Iraq: What We Were Told at the Time - hey, it's been ten years since the Iraq war! And it cost lots and lots and lots of money! (much more than people said at the time)

- In Mississippi, the Mysterious Murder of a Gay, Black Politician - (a long read) it's still mysterious, but there's more to the story than the headline.

- NPR did a long story on the growing number of people on disability...it's something I haven't heard about, and the numbers surprised me.

- A long story about how De Beers cornered the diamond market and how they're ridiculously more expensive than they should be...nothing I haven't read before, but a good summary.

Tech stuff:

- New Reasons to Change Light Bulbs - LED bulbs are cheaper now - I guess it's time to switch away from CFLs? (or, at least, when they go out, replace them with LEDs?)

- Hyperkin is making a console that can play NES, SNES, Genesis, Famicom, and Game Boy games. And all for less than $100. Pretty nifty!


- Ask A Banker: Why Do People Keep Trying To Give Me Money? - it's economics _and_ it's humor! How do they do that?

- If PHP Were British

- Death Star Truthers

1 comment

link friday: same-sex marriage, Wii U!, scandals
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-11-16 14:07:00
Tags: gay referrer politics links
Words: 455

Things have been busy so it's been over a month since I've posted a batch of links...but the wait is over!

- Same-sex marriage section: after the historic victories last week (wow, that was only last week! How time flies...), my marriage map was linked from Sociological Images, which is a pretty awesome name for a blog. (and no, the map isn't wrong, Maryland doesn't allow marriage until January. But that's OK!) Dan Savage reminds us that we couldn't have done it without lots and lots of straight allies: thanks straight allies! And the New York Times points out that Obama won LGBT voters by a lot, while there was roughly a tie for straight voters.

- Wow: Dick Morris (who predicted a Romney landslide) is now saying "I Felt It Was My Duty" To "Say What I Said". Regardless of who you wanted to win, that is a terrible terrible thing to hear from a pundit who makes predictions. (perhaps it's not unrelated that Dick Morris is notoriously almost always wrong when predicting things)

- I just found out an old high school friend of mine started CheckedTwice, a place to put up gift lists and such. Perfect for the holidays! It got a nice writeup in a local paper.

- For some reason, a bunch of Princess Bride references in an NFL pregame show.

- Someone wrote a Chrome extension that automatically fact checks crazy chain letters - pretty cool!

- Speaking of Chrome, the new 100,000 Stars is a very cool visualization of our stellar neighborhood. Man, browsing through this makes me want to play Master of Orion again...

- After playing Nintendo Land for the Wii U, David and I have been convinced to get a Wii U. Lots of fun!

- With regards to the Petraeus scandal, David Simon has two (NSFW-language) posts: part 1 and part 2. Short version: this shouldn't be a scandal.

- Speaking of scandals, I still don't really understand what the Benghazi "scandal" is supposed to be about. (obviously it was a tragedy, and we need better security, but I've never understood why people are trying to make political hay out of it) And apparently I'm not the only one!

- Roman Catholic Church in Minnesota Refuses to Confirm Pro-Equality Teen - worse than that, they're refusing his whole family communion. Ick ick ick.

- Sixth man infraction spotted 19 years after Rockets/Sonics game - pretty incredible that no one caught this, even though it didn't make a difference in the play. Once you know what to look for it's pretty blatant :-)

- From the Onion: Nation Suddenly Realizes This Just Going To Be A Thing That Happens From Now On (re Hurricane Sandy)

- Pentatonix has a new Christmas album coming out - here's their version of Carol of the Bells.


A big, big day for gay rights
Mood: ecstatic
Posted on 2012-11-07 09:57:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 192

Along with all the other stuff, yesterday was a huge day for gay rights:

- Tammy Baldwin won in Wisconsin, becoming the first openly gay US senator.

- There were four same-sex marriage measures on the ballot - Maine, Maryland, and Washington were looking to allow it, and Minnesota was looking to prohibit it in their constitution. We won in Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota. (the numbers are still being counted in Washington, but it's looking good!) To put that in perspective, same-sex marriage has _never_ been allowed when put to a popular vote (it's something like 0 for 32), and same-sex marriage bans in the state constitution have only failed once (Arizona in 2006). The marriage map has been updated!

Now, the four states are all pretty Democratic-leaning, and the votes were close, but between people getting more comfortable with it and the fact that the president and Democratic party endorsed it, I think the tide is turning towards same-sex marriage, and it's turning quickly. In Maine just four years ago, voters rejected same-sex marriage 53-47%, and it looks like it passed this time by the same margin, which would be a 6 point swing!


links that made me angry
Mood: angry
Posted on 2012-10-02 11:36:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 185

So I read this month's The Atlantic magazine and there was this long article about Jim Bopp who believes the problem with money in politics is that there's not enough. Somehow it's even more frustrating that the guy seems to honestly think that unlimited contributions from anonymous sources is a good thing for democracy. And, post-Citizens United, he's totally winning! (other depressing articles in the issue: gerrymandering and voter suppression. Whee.)

Then I read this article about how the very rich feel "victimized" by Obama. A few of the people quoted compare Obama to an abusive spouse or, say, Hitler. My favorite sentence:

In 2010, the private-equity billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, of the Blackstone Group, compared the President’s as yet unsuccessful effort to eliminate some of the preferential tax treatment his sector receives to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

And then, on a totally unrelated topic, this morning I read this article about sexism at software conferences, which for some reason is a kinda pervasive problem that really really shouldn't be happening.

And then I sighed and was sad for the rest of the day. The End.


Mitt Romney and the 47%
Posted on 2012-09-24 21:13:00
Tags: rant essay taxes politics
Words: 611

(yes, I realize I'm late on this, but dang it I was out of town when this happened and I'm not going to miss it!)

So! Mitt Romney said some things about people who don't pay income taxes last week. From the article:

Fielding a question from a donor about how he could triumph in November, Romney replied:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

Romney went on: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

A few things about this!

- It is true that 47% of people paid zero federal income tax last year. It is not true that these people paid zero taxes total. If you earn a wage, you pay payroll taxes. Everyone pays sales taxes. If you own a house, you pay property taxes. (and if you rent, part of your rent goes towards them) Most states have a state income tax. If you have a car, you pay registration fees, etc., etc., etc. Undoubtedly there are some number of people who don't pay any taxes (assuming they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit or some other refundable credit), but certainly not 47%.

- Fun fact - members of the military earn a lot of their income as tax-free!

- The statement that these people "will vote for the president no matter what", is clearly untrue. Taking a random national poll with crosstabs I could find, 43% of those that make less than $30K a year (which I think is a reasonable proxy) said they would vote for Romney. 43% is a lot bigger than 0%.

- More generally, people don't not pay any federal income taxes because they don't want to - they don't because they don't make a lot of money. I'm an agog at the logic here. Is he saying that people just don't want to get jobs? With unemployment still above 8%, and four job applicants for every open position, this is just hogwash. And somehow Mitt Romney knows that not only do they not want jobs, but they believe they're entitled to all sorts of things like, um, food.

- I don't even understand what he would change about this. Make sure everyone pays some taxes by eliminating things like the standard deduction and the EITC, one of the largest anti-poverty programs the US has? The only thing that makes sense is that he thinks people are choosing not to work because they're lazy and get food stamps. I just don't believe that's true in any sort of significant numbers.

- This is what class warfare sounds like, not things like "hey, maybe we should raise taxes on income over $250K or $1M" or something like that. No one (well, OK, not me) is saying that rich people are bad people - we just want them to pay their fair share. Taxes are not punishment.

- And, to be a little less fair, Mitt Romney is about the last person I want to talk to me about poor people. What does he know about their struggles?

(hey, Bill Clinton agrees with me!)

OK! I feel a little better now.


long post on Paul Ryan's tax plan
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2012-08-13 23:23:00
Tags: essay taxes politics
Words: 862

This weekend Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate. I think this is a good choice that really clarifies the election, as Ryan is a pretty staunch conservative. (according to DW-Nominate he's the most conservative VP pick ever)

Prior to this, Ryan is probably most famous for his budget plan, known as "The Path to Prosperity", which the Republicans in the House of Representatives passed earlier this year. I posted about this last year, but I thought I'd take a closer look at the proposal after reading that Mitt Romney would pay 0.82% in taxes under the Ryan plan. (!) This is because the plan eliminates taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest.

The full plan (warning: big .pdf) includes a bunch of non-tax stuff (including the plan to turn Medicare from defined-benefit to a defined-contribution), but I just read through the tax parts because I'm not a total masochist :-) For those of you following along at home, these are on pages 59-67.

It starts by saying the tax code is complicated (true!), and unfair because of the special credits, deductions, and loopholes that apparently cost $1 trillion a year(!), which is roughly how much the government actually collects in individual income taxes. That is...well, surprising.

It then shows a pair of graphs claiming to show that tax revenue really just depends on GDP and not the tax rates. Here they are:

I think the first one is a little misleading - you can't just look at the top tax rate and use that to determine how high the "overall" tax rate is - the other brackets and rates matter too. (although, to be fair, that's a lot of variables and it's hard to combine them all) For example, in 1950 the top tax rate was 90%, but that bracket didn't start until an income of $400K, which in today's dollars is roughly $3.6 million. (by comparison, the top tax rate today is 35%, but it kicks in at an income of ~$400K) I'm honestly not sure about these graphs - one interpretation is that as tax rates go up, people take more steps to avoid paying taxes. (using offshore accounts, etc.) Another interpretation is that the "average" tax rate hasn't really changed that much over the years.

The proposal talks about the corporate tax rate for a while, which it points it is the highest in the industrialized world (or will be soon, anyway), but lots of companies get around paying the full rate anyway. It says it would be better to lower the rate and eliminate loopholes, which I agree with (and Obama has proposed as well). One thing I did have clarified is that nearly 75% of small businesses file taxes as individuals, which is why Republicans often say that raising individual income taxes "hurts small businesses". (why do they do this? Seriously question...is it just easier than actually incorporating? I have no idea...)

Anyway, the gist of the whole thing is to reduce our current six bracket system (10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35% - see current brackets here) to a two bracket system with 10% and 25% rates. One might immediately notice that this is a pretty huge tax cut for people making more than $400K/year. I also think that doing this in the name of "simplification" is a bit of a dodge - is the fact that we have six brackets instead of two really what makes the tax code complicated? No, it's all the deductions, credits, etc.

I'm not even going into the idea of not taxing capital gains, dividends, and interest (which I didn't even find in the plan, confusingly enough). One argument for not taxing these things is that it's "double taxation", since for example corporate profits are taxed, and then the dividends they pay out of their remaining money is taxed again. The phrasing always seemed weird to me, as if each dollar is only ever taxed once, which is of course totally untrue! When I get money in my bank account from my paycheck, that's money that has already been taxed, and then when I go out and buy a new phone, I pay sales tax on that too.

Finally, the whole premise of the tax part of the plan is that we can afford to lower the tax brackets by reducing deductions and loopholes and such. The problem is that a lot of these deductions (like, say, the home mortgage interest deduction) are really popular, so the plan cleverly takes the tack of not saying what would be removed. This makes it somewhat less of a plan and more of an idea. I'm wondering whether there actually was a real plan somewhere (after all, the House of Representatives passed something!), but I sure couldn't find it.

The plan also refuses to fund Obamacare, because why not? At this point it's really looking more like a wish-fulfillment scenario than a serious plan.

So...yeah. The whole idea of balancing the budget by cutting taxes (even the plan admits that revenues will be lower in 2014 and beyond) and then cutting spending even more (but, of course, not cutting defense spending), is really not that serious.

1 comment

links: Obamacare description, Romney's tax plan, NYT trial, a capella BSG cover!
Mood: busy
Posted on 2012-08-01 14:43:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 197

- Here's a concise description of what Obamacare does, complete with citations. (from a subreddit called Explain Like I'm Five) Very thorough from what I've seen!

- A new analysis from outside groups shows that Romney's tax plan will raise taxes on anyone making $200K or less, and lower them for anyone making more than that. So...yeah. I don't mind higher taxes to reduce the deficit, or investing in infrastructure/education/etc., but raising my taxes so millionaires can get a tax cut...not so much.

- Speaking of Romney and taxes, here's a striking graph comparing the past 5 presidents + Romney's yearly income and effective tax rate.

- The New York Times Is Now Supported by Readers, Not Advertisers - glad to see their online strategy is working, even if they did still suffer a pretty big loss. Related: anyone want to try an online subscription for 99 cents for 4 weeks? Drop me a line and I'll send it your way!

- This a capella cover of BSG's All Along the Watchtower is awesome. (thanks, Jessica!)

- A story about the LGBT student group at Rice back in the 70's. Spoiler alert: Annise Parker makes an appearance!

- idreambooks.com is kinda like Metacritic, but for books.


let's all calm down re Chick-Fil-A
Posted on 2012-07-22 12:51:00
Tags: essay gay politics
Words: 175

Apparently people are surprised that Chick-Fil-A is against same-sex marriage. First of all, I don't know why this is such a surprise - it's pretty obvious the founder of Chick-Fil-A was Christian, and he certainly passed that down to the restaurants (closed on Sunday, etc.), and sadly these days that's enough to pretty much assume they're against same-sex marriage.

But I don't think you have a moral duty to boycott Chick-Fil-A (or, say, prevent them from opening in Boston). If you want to boycott Chick-Fil-A, or it makes you uncomfortable to eat there, then sure, go ahead. But it's not like Chick-Fil-A is the Westboro Baptist Church. And I guess I have an allergic reaction to overly politicizing everyday life. Society is polarized enough already - I don't want to live in a world where Republicans and Democrats can't even eat at the same restaurants based on their political affiliations!

A reasonable middle ground - eat at Chick-Fil-A, and donate money to the Human Rights Campaign to offset whatever small percentage of your money goes to anti-gay organizations.


just some grousing about North Carolina, and Obama endorses gay marriage!
Mood: sad
Posted on 2012-05-09 14:03:00
Tags: rant gay politics
Words: 95

North Carolina voted to ban same-sex civil unions and marriage last night...and it wasn't even close. Amendment 1 passed 61-39%, and the map gets redder. Le sigh.

Why exactly are civil rights up for a popular vote again?

As @thinkprogress points out, the last time NC amended their constitution about marriage it was to ban interracial marriage. Similarly gloomy reaction from Andrew Sullivan.

This cool gay rights visualization from the BBC is already out of date!

Wow - minutes ago President Obama says he supports same-sex marriage! While this has no practical effect it's certainly encouraging.


a little down, with music to bring me up
Mood: depressed
Posted on 2012-05-08 10:05:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 84

Sigh. The past few weeks have been pretty rough in terms of stress and things going on. North Carolina votes today and the ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions seems likely to pass. I am tired.

To cheer me up, I found this awesome a capella cover of "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Pentatonix. Then Adam pointed me to this cover by Walk off the Earth where they only use one guitar, followed by a pretty good parody of said video.


Mitt Romney's neoconservative foreign policy spokesman resigned for being gay
Mood: angry
Posted on 2012-05-02 17:50:00
Tags: politics
Words: 183

Set the wayback machine to last week. The Romney campaign hired an openly gay foreign policy spokesman, and as the linked article mentions, some saw it as a turning point that someone openly gay (and a public support of same-sex marriage!) could work in a public role on a Republican presidential campaign.

Well, that didn't last long - he resigned this week after an anti-gay backlash in the Republican party. To be clear, the Romney campaign didn't ask him to resign, but they didn't let him actually make any statements for fear of angering the base.

Keep in mind: nobody doubts his conservative credentials, as he was John Bolton's spokesman (as Andrew Sullivan points out). The objections were all because he supported same-sex marriage, although part of me wonders if they would have objected if he was straight and supported same-sex marriage. (of course, then he probably wouldn't have been a Republican anyway. Zing!)

Just a reminder that, even though neither Romney nor Obama support same-sex marriage, there's still a huge difference between the parties when it comes to gay rights. That is all.


just a bunch of links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2011-12-13 14:30:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 264

Sorted by the amount of politics, in ascending order:

- The Day I Saw Van Gogh’s Genius in a New Light - was Van Gogh partially color deficient? His paintings, viewed through a filter, suggest they might be.

- A technique for memorizing the two-letter Scrabble words...or at least the ones that start with "a".

- Looks like we're pretty sure the Chinese military have been attacking US companies such as Google, Lockheed Martin, and RSA. Frightening but not surprising.

- Fancy tax graph - the graph is a little confusing, but the different colors/percentage indicate the marginal tax rate, and the y-axis is how much percentage of the total tax revenue that was generated from that marginal rate. You can clearly see the effect of the Bush tax cuts, as there was a sharp drop in the amount of income that was generated by higher tax brackets.

- Speaking of tax policy, a comparison of Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain's tax plans. The graphs are very tall because the tax cuts for the rich are so huge.

- Lowe's pulled its ads from the show "All-American Muslim" because right-wing groups complained that it was "propaganda" for Muslims or something. This really really makes me sad. Lowe's has faced some backlash but is not planning on restoring their ads.

- I angrily tweeted earlier, but: Rick Santorum says that "science should get out of politics". This is the backward-est thing I've heard in a long time, and still angers up my blood every time I read it...

- Romney Accidentally Crashes Married Gay Vet’s Date While Trolling for Anti-Gay Votes - whoops!

1 comment

mostly politics links, plus a good list of board games
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-11-30 15:54:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 170

BoardGameGeek has a holiday gift guide full of good games. I think we own (and like) half the games on the list :-)

- Why we need an individual mandate for health insurance - a short explanation by comparing it to the used car market. Adverse selection is a big problem! (thanks David!)

- Why conservatives can't get people to work hard is a good look at how hard it is to motivate people, and why building a strong middle-class seems important. (thanks David!)

- The Era of Corporate Profit - corporate profits (after tax) are the highest in the last 50 years, while wage income is at its lowest over the same period (both as shares of GDP). And (surprise, surprise!) corporate taxes are way down.

- A former conservative asks When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

- The Tuesday Birthday Problem is a long article about a tricky probability question. (the answer depends on how you ask it) I like probability questions, but I tend to steer clear of not-entirely-well-formed ones like this one.


links: supercommittee, budgets, webOS, Fox News
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-11-22 10:49:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 186

The supercommittee failed to reach a deal on reducing the deficit. Reports are that the Democrats on the committee offered the Republicans a "fair deal" roughly in line with the Bowles-Simpson bipartisan deficit reduction plan. They agreed to cut entitlements, but the Republicans refused to raise taxes. Remember this the next time you hear about "fiscal responsibility" and such.

The latest xkcd is a cool graph of money. I wish I had a wall at work to put a poster of that or Death and Taxes on. Budgets are fun!

HP had their conference call and remarked that they've lost $3.3 billion on webOS this year...considering they also paid $1.2 billion to buy it in the first place, that starts to add up. I can understand why they might be hesitant to continue with it. It sounds like they're planning to make a decision in December, and one sticking point may be getting to license webOS for printers. Sigh.

I've seen studies saying that Fox News viewers are less informed, but here's one showing they're less informed than people than people who consume no news!


occupy wall street via cookie monster, scientologists, etc. links
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2011-10-25 10:37:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 481

Cookie Monster explains Occupy Wall Street. No, really, here's the text:

Yes, there always going to be rich and poor. But we used to live in country where rich owned factory and make 30 times what factory worker make. Now we live in country where rich make money by lying about value of derivative bonds and make 3000 times what factory worker would make if factories hadn't all moved to China.

Capitalism great system. We won Cold War because people behind Iron Curtain look over wall, and see how much more plentiful and delicious cookies are in West, and how we have choice of different bakeries, not just state-owned one. It great system. It got us out of Depression, won WWII, built middle class, built country's infrastructure from highways to Hoover Dam to Oreo factory to electrifying rural South. It system that reward hard work and fair play, and everyone do fair share and everyone benefit. Rich get richer, poor get richer, everyone happy. It great system.

Then after Reagan, Republicans decide to make number one priority destroying that system. Now we have system where richest Americans ones who find ways to game system -- your friends on Wall Street -- and poorest Americans ones who thought working hard would get them American dream, when in fact it get them pink slip when job outsourced to 10-year-old in Mumbai slum. And corporations have more influence over government than people (or monsters).

It not about rich people having more money. It about how they got money. It about how they take opportunity away from rest of us, for sake of having more money. It how they willing to take risks that destroy economy -- knowing full well that what could and would happen -- putting millions out of work, while creating nothing of value, and all the while crowing that they John Galt, creating wealth for everyone.

That what the soul-searching about. When Liberals run country for 30 years following New Deal, American economy double in size, and wages double along with it. That fair. When Conservatives run country for 30 years following Reagan, American economy double again, and wages stay flat. What happen to our share of money? All of it go to richest 1%. That not "there always going to be rich people". That unfair system. That why we upset. That what Occupy Sesame Street about.

After the South Park episode that mocked them, Scientologists tried to "infiltrate the writers room" and get dirt on Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

A former skeptic agrees after doing his own study: global warming is really and truly happening. (thanks David!)

The Wirecutter is a "list of the greatest gadgets". (written by a former Gizmodo writer) Obviously if you're interested in gadgetry, you should do more research, but if you just want a good camera or TV or whatever, this is a great resource!

The Venn Piagram!


mostly politics/economics links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2011-10-21 13:41:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 296

Politics/economics: (more economics towards the top, more politics towards the bottom)

Back in 2000 (i.e. when we had a surplus, before the Bush tax cuts), the government wrote a report on why getting to 0 debt isn't a great idea.

Why Greece, Spain, and Ireland Aren’t to Blame for Europe’s Woes - they were invited into the eurozone so they could provide a good return on investment to the more developed countries. Then when the financial crisis hit, other countries cut back on foreign investment., meaning giant deficits. (although this wasn't the only thing going on, but it was a big factor)

Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks) has a plan to let Starbucks customers lend money to small businesses through Community Development Financial Institutions. Kinda crazy but I'm interested to see how it turns out!

Robert Reich's seven biggest economics lies - trickle-down economics doesn't work! and so on. And as a reminder, just because 47% of Americans don't pay any federal income tax doesn't mean they don't pay other taxes like payroll taxes, which are somewhat regressive.

Biden Takes Senate Republicans To School On Tiny Millionaire’s Surtax - or, this is how marginal tax rates work!

Lemony Snicket on Occupy Wall Street

The Untold Story Of The Actual Obama Record - hopefully Obama's campaign brings these points up close to next November...


Michael Winslow does a pretty convincing electric guitar!

The coffeeshop fallacy for startups - just because you like hanging out at coffeeshops doesn't mean you'd like running one.

Adobe's deblur plugin which doesn't ship yet (and there are still big technical challenges), but nice!

Rick Santorum is still really really really anti-gay marriage. (I think when he said "he'd die on that hill" fighting for a federal same-sex marriage ban, he didn't mean it literally, but still...)

1 comment

the best part of linking up...
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-08-12 11:32:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 167

Warning: I've been saving these up so there are a ton of them. Enter at your own risk!

- The Teleporter Library: A Copyright Thought Experiment - interesting take on file-sharing. But I'm not sure how to solve the "too few people need to pay for a thing" problem. (thanks David!)

- What Happened to Obama? - pretty damning article about Obama's lack of passion.

- Study: Strong Catholic support for gay rights - a majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage? If those results are correct...wow!

- How Plan B found the Droid I was looking for - exciting story of tracking down a lost phone.

- A big story broke accusing the Toronto Blue Jays of stealing signs. Grantland is a bit more skeptical, but also links to this account of the Dave Bresnahan Potato Incident, which is awesome.

- The Trivialities and Transcendence of Kickstarter - interesting story about getting a project on Kickstarter.

- An oldie but goodie: And that’s why you should learn to pick your battles.

- Ah, okra

- If Mario Was Designed in 2010


rant: debt ceiling, auto theft
Mood: angry
Posted on 2011-07-13 10:52:00
Tags: rant politics
Words: 413

The continuing debate over the debt ceiling is really starting to piss me off. Given that the alternative of not raising the debt ceiling, it is widely agreed, would mean a giant fiscal crisis and probably another recession. If you're concerned about having too big a deficit, then address that in the budget, not in the "we have to pass this to keep paying our bills" vote. (why do we even need that vote since we already passed the budget?)

The point in time that put me over the edge was when Obama basically agreed to a $4 trillion deficit reduction package, 80% of which was spending cuts and 20% was tax hikes. And the Republicans said no, that increasing taxes at all, even on the richest 1% that's done much much better than the middle class over the past decade. I thought I heard the reason was that this would hurt the economy, which seems like an absurd point to make when the alternative is defaulting on our debts.

Anyway, McConnell proposed this crazy scheme where Congress would vote to give the authority to Obama to raise the debt limit, then pass a bill to say "no don't do that" that Obama could veto. It sounds like it has a shot at getting enough support, but it just makes me sad that this is the way we solve our problems.


There's a new campaign to prevent auto theft (can't find links, so you'll have to take my word for it). The billboard goes something like "Insurance premiums have gone up $x billion in Texas because of auto theft, so don't let your car be stolen". The radio ad has a guy talking about hoping somebody steal his piece of junk car, then a friend explaining that that would make his insurance rates go up.

Honest question: what?? I would think on the list of "Reasons I don't want my car to be stolen", "Insurance rates will go up" is somewhere around #57. You know what's #1? "Because then I won't have a car, and even if it's insured I'm probably not going to get full value for it and then I have to go through the hassle of buying a car, etc., etc." Who the heck thinks that "Well, I would have let my car be stolen, but I don't want everyone's insurance rates to go up a tiny bit"??

Am I crazy? Do people like having their cars stolen or something?


summer links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-07-08 11:49:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 155

Summer musical rehearsals have started. See you in August!

- When Crime Happens in Major Cities - interestingly Austin seems to have a higher percentage of crimes during the day than at night.

- People given Medicaid in Oregon reported better health than the control group. It was almost across the board, except the people given Medicaid didn't go to the emergency room any less, which is somewhat disappointing.

- Why the Republicans Resist Compromise - good analysis by Nate Silver on just how dependent Republicans are on conservative voters (in a way that Democrats aren't on liberal voters)

- The Brain on Trial - long article about how to deal with punishing people who commit crimes because of, say, a brain tumor. As we learn more about the brain, more crimes are going to be "justified" by looking at physical problems like this. The author suggests punishment based on the likelihood of committing another crime, which seems reasonable.

- Haydn's Head Fake


Same-sex marriage in NY passes!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-06-27 16:26:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 91

It passed the New York State Senate by a vote of 33-29, Governor Cuomo signed it that evening, and the Empire State Building turned rainbow. And the map gets updated! (NY will turn blue when the bill takes effect in 30 days)

A few links about it:
- NY Times article
- Nate Silver contrasts Cuomo with Obama and why some are not too happy with Obama these days.
- NY Times "inside baseball" story about getting the bill passed where it becomes clear that the governor was heavily involved in making this happen.


happy Friday eve! PreCentral interview, Atul Gawande
Mood: complacent
Posted on 2011-06-16 10:53:00
Tags: palmpre gay politics links
Words: 184

I got interviewed at PreCentral yesterday! I think it went pretty well, and a surprising number of people clicked through to look at my apps and stuff.

Here's Atul Gawande's commencement address at Harvard Medical school. He talked about how medicine needs to move from a "cowboy" culture to a "pit crew" one.

The New York same-sex marriage bill passed the State Assembly (as it has several times before), but its future is unclear. Supporters say they have 31 of the needed 32 votes in the State Senate, but the Republicans (who have a majority in the State Senate) aren't even sure they're going to bring it up. But it sounds like it's either going to happen or it won't by the end of this week.

What to say to someone who's sick and how to help without being an imposition.

I'm not paying a great deal of attention to the Republican primary, but apparently Tim Pawlenty has proposed more tax cuts that are significantly larger than the Bush tax cuts. (and of course, the vast majority going to the top 1% or 0.1%...)


monday is for linking: financial geekery, NY same-sex marriage, DVR sports
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-06-13 16:56:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 150

Britton Gregory, a friend of ours, is getting into the financial coaching business, and he has a new excellent blog called Financial Geekery. Check it out! I've already learned that I need to check my American Express credit card to see if I can get better rewards...

There's probably going to be a vote on same-sex marriage in New York this week, and apparently the count of confirmed supporters is up to 30 (out of 32 necessary). Go go go! (skipping obligatory link to map)

Chuck Klosterman tries to explain why watching sports on the DVR sucks the fun out of it. I have had similar feelings, and his explanations seem pretty close to the truth.

Taking Cold Showers - I like the idea but not sure I can force myself to do this. I'm not a very determined person in the morning!

A cool time-lapse video of Manhattan traffic, etc.


Unusually good links
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2011-06-06 13:15:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 240

I usually wait and queue these up a bit, but these are too good to hold on to!

- Our Fantasy Nation?: I'll quote the beginning, and let you read the article for the punchline.

With Tea Party conservatives and many Republicans balking at raising the debt ceiling, let me offer them an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals.

It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country: fewer than 2 percent of the people pay any taxes. Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.

This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t imaginable, and criminals are never coddled.

The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution. When generals decide on a policy for, say, Afghanistan, politicians defer to them. Citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.
(via flamingophoenix, which is also an excellent username!)

- Slate uses Rotten Tomatoes data to chart the course of an actor's or director's career, and even lets you make graphs of your own!

- The Alamo Drafthouse is serious about not texting during a movie. See their latest PSA featuring an angry voicemail!

- This Daily WTF made me blink in disbelief. The first four lines:
/* this is my function to conveniently divide even when things are zero */
function safely_divideByZero($numerator,$denominator)
    /* check to see if the denominator == "php" - remember, 0 == "php" */
    if ( $denominator == "php" )

1 comment

it's-been-a-little-while links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2011-06-01 13:29:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 189

- A cool visualization of various countries' "life indices" where you can weight the different factors. And the countries look like flowers! (via djedi)

- A new poll shows Americans estimate 25% of the population is gay/lesbian. To which I say...where are you living?? Admittedly things like this are hard to measure (some people are closeted, not to mention sexuality is somewhat fluid), but this is way higher than any estimate I've seen. 7-10% or so sounds right to me. (via djedi)

- In a similar vein, a story from the AP suggesting the same-sex marriage tide is turning, maybe. Unfortunately the map is still pretty grim, and Minnesota just put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage.

- Over at the Atlantic, there's a series on the 10 biggest constitutional myths. Here's a good debunking of "originalists", and here's why the Constitution's purpose wasn't to limit Congress.

- Facebook devalues birthday greetings - yes yes yes! I've been saying this for years!

- Being Frugal Makes You A Loser - inflammatory title, and please don't read the comments, but I generally agree with the message, assuming you can afford good-quality things. (NSFW language)


Spot the problem with this sentence!
Mood: amazed
Posted on 2011-05-10 10:48:00
Tags: politics
Words: 51

From Public Policy Polling:

In February we found that 51% of Republican primary voters thought Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Now with the release of his birth certificate only 34% of GOP partisans fall into that camp...
Relatedly, support for Trump has collapsed, so...at least that's good?


"It Gets Better" and Republicans
Mood: angry
Posted on 2011-05-09 14:55:00
Tags: rant gay politics
Words: 269

In September, after a rash of teen suicides, Dan Savage started the It Gets Better project to tell bullied youth (especially LGBT) that it does, in fact, get better, and that high school is probably the low point of your life. Basically, the message is: don't commit suicide.

The project kinda took off and now there are thousands and thousands of videos. Google is even showing a TV ad about it. (although the ad is technically for Chrome) Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi have all made videos, among other Democratic senators and representatives.

You know who hasn't made any videos? Elected Republican officials. The only candidate for president who has is Fred Karger who is marginal even among the marginal candidates. As far as I can tell, no Republican senators or representatives have made one. (please, correct me if I'm wrong!)

Now, I don't think that all the Republican senators/representatives actually _want_ gay kids to commit suicide. But what kind of message does it send when an entire party is silent on the issue, or thinks that speaking up against suicide will anger their voters? (hint: it is terrible)

Yet more evidence that Republicans and Democrats are not the same. (although, does anyone really think that anymore? I think that kind of thinking expired in the 2000s...)


Marginally related - this headline speaks for itself: Tea Party Leader: We'll Take The Debt Ceiling Hike If You Put Gay Troops Back In The Closet. I thought the Tea Party was neutralish on social issues?

Anyway, I'm going to go have a root beer float and un-angry myself.


birthday links!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2011-04-20 16:07:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 80

- Nate Silver says: Gay Marriage Opponents Now in Minority. Yay! (although older people are more likely to oppose gay marriage and more likely to vote, so...yeah.)

- This is a little depressing, but a little freeing: The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything

- British Spy Secrets Still Much Cooler Than American Spy Secrets

- The Creativity Killer: Group Discussions - not always true, but often true it seems. Has some interesting suggestions for making group discussions more creative.


politics: shuttin' down the gubmint
Mood: angry
Posted on 2011-04-08 12:37:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 92

The proposed Republican budget: here is the problem. Or, in graphical form:

Apparently the Democrats have agreed to $38 billion of spending cuts (more than before), but the Republicans are now insisting on a rider that defunds Planned Parenthood, which the Democrats (rightly) will not agree to. Planned Parenthood provides lots of services including birth control (which, hey! reduces the number of abortions), and government money isn't used to fund abortions per the Hyde amendment. So, yeah. This is what the government of the US is going to shut down over. Whee.

1 comment

can't buy me links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2011-03-15 14:35:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 250

From the Atlantic:
- A neat map of the counties of America by how their median family income has changed over the last 30 years. Austin is a "Boom town"!

- Secret Fears of the Super-Rich - the most surprising thing for me was that the survey respondents (with an average net worth of $78 million) don't consider themselves financially secure, but would need 25% more than what they have to feel that way. Some of the big problems are ensuring their children grow up without a giant sense of entitlement, and constantly wondering if people like them or are just being friendly for their money.

- How 2 Colbert Staffers and a Game Journalist Rewrote Carmen Sandiego for Facebook - she's back!

From other places:
- Sadly, a same-sex marriage bill got sent back to committee in Maryland. But, tomorrow a bill will be introduced to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Probably doesn't have a great chance of passing, but it's good to know people are fighting for it. It surprises me that according to an HRC poll, 51% of Americans oppose DOMA! Maybe there is some hope after all...

- One of the four Democratic state senators in New York who voted against the same-sex marriage bill...lives with his gay partner. Yes, it's still hypocritical if you're a Democrat.

- Katamari Hack - make a Katamari on any web page! (works in Firefox 4 and Chrome...and maybe others)

- Weatherspark has a ton of weather data in a nice format. Here's data from Camp Mabry.


late links
Mood: awake
Posted on 2011-01-09 01:02:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 170

More on the shooting of a congresswoman - she was awake after surgery and recognized her husband, which is pretty amazing given that she was shot in the head at close range. James Fallows looks at this and other political shootings and points out that, while the shooter is usually deranged and not really related to the normal opposition to the figure, "the political tone of an era can have some bearing on violent events".

An interesting graph of stock market returns based on when you enter and exit the market. Note that the light red actually means a 0-3% return over inflation, which confused me for a bit. The 20-year median is 4.1% over inflation, which is not bad but not the 7% that I've seen mentioned elsewhere. David made a good point that it would be interesting to see how this looks with dollar-cost averaging - possible project sometime?

Thanks to Obamacare, more small businesses are offering health care to employees because of a tax credit for doing so. Hooray!


Congresswoman shot in head at public event
Mood: angry
Posted on 2011-01-08 14:45:00
Tags: politics
Words: 156

I'm just going to quote from John Gruber:

Sarah Palin’s political action committee placed ads which put a gunshot target over Giffords.

Her opponent in last year’s election held a campaign event at a gun range, to “get on target” to “remove Gabrielle Giffords from office”.

To be clear, I don't think Sarah Palin or her opponent really wanted someone to kill her, but when you repeatedly use this kind of rhetoric you are partially responsible for people who read what they want into it.

Edit: I should add that I don't want to jump to conclusions too much here, and nothing's been released about the identity of the shooter (who was captured). But the fact that she was shot at a public event makes me feel that it's pretty likely the shooter was politically motivated.

Edit 2: Andrew Sullivan's been liveblogging - the shooter appears to be mentally disturbed but definitely influenced by the far right.


Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal passes!
Mood: astounded
Posted on 2010-12-19 18:25:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 46

The vote to end the filibuster passed 63-33 and the bill itself passed 65-31. Nate Silver points out that its public popularity probably encouraged some Republicans to vote for it.

I can't believe it actually passed. What windmill to tilt at next? (oh, right, same-sex marriage...)


Quick DADT update
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2010-12-17 23:25:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 64

After last time, things have changed. Harry Reid (bless his soul!) scheduled a vote on DADT tomorrow. The four Republicans who supported it then said they wanted a resolution to fund the government to be passed first. And then the Senate did pass something to fund the government for 3 days. So...looking good maybe? Hard to believe, but we'll see tomorrow. Cross your fingers!


Don't Ask Don't Tell update, and some fun links to make up for wall-to-wall DADT coverage
Mood: hopeful
Music: Zero 7 - "Destiny"
Posted on 2010-12-16 15:11:00
Tags: activism gay politics links
Words: 761

So, yeah, sorry about all the Don't Ask Don't Tell stuff. But hey, some neat links after that!

The big news: The Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal bill passed the house 250-175 which is better than the previous bill did. Apparently it now has at least 61 votes in the Senate, which is one more than is necessary. Now the question is whether a vote can be held in time before the recess. Here's hoping!

Senator Cornyn emailed me back about DADT; here's his response:

Dear Mr. Stoll:

Thank you for contacting me about current Department of Defense (DoD) policy regarding sexual orientation and military service. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this matter.

As you know, in 1993, Congress passed legislation to codify the existing military “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy, which governs homosexuals serving in the Armed Forces. This policy has served our nation well, and I oppose any effort to repeal it. The readiness of our Armed Forces must always be the foremost consideration in any decision regarding military personnel policies, especially as our troops are serving in harm’s way in two active theaters of conflict. Now is not the time to increase the level of stress on our force through such a dramatic policy change.

Moreover, as you may know, three of the four military service chiefs recently testified before Congress as to their clear reservations with repealing the policy at the present time. I believe that it would be a profound mistake to disregard the informed opinion of these military leaders, and I am deeply concerned by the blatant disregard that some members of Congress have shown to their concerns by including provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 5136; S. 3454) that would repeal this law. For these reasons, I opposed the motion to proceed to consideration of S. 3454, and I will continue to oppose the attempt to repeal the DADT policy.

The United States Government has no higher purpose than keeping the American people safe from harm. Our national security depends on the ability of our Armed Forces’ to maintain military readiness at all times. The linchpin of military readiness lies in maintaining cohesive units consisting of competent, fully trained personnel who share a sense of common purpose and confidence in their unit’s ability to accomplish its mission. Our Armed Forces recruit the finest individuals possible and help them develop into world-class Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.

My father served in the military for thirty-one years, and I was privileged to grow up around men and women dedicated to protecting our country. As such, I remain committed to ensuring that our military is the best-trained, best-equipped force in the world and able to maintain a strong national defense. I appreciate your thoughts regarding current military policies, and you may be certain that I will keep your views in mind as these matters are discussed. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

United States Senator

Comparing with Senator Hutchinson's response, it's interesting that he doesn't even mention the study the military conducted to see how repealing DADT would affect them! Instead he talks about "reservations" that three of the four military chiefs had...


- The ten best visualization projects of 2010. One thing that's missing is the Facebook friendship map, which is my new background at work. Here's a view of what's missing from the Facebook friendship map and why. (mostly other social networks that are popular)

- A long piece on income inequality and whether it matters. He makes a good point that the "inequality of personal well-being" is down compared to one hundred years ago. The second half of the essay is an investigation into the finance industry (where a lot of the very very rich come from these days) and ways to make them stop taking huge risks knowing that the government will bail them out. The depressing conclusion: we don't really know how. A response points out that although some things (big TVs, etc.) have gotten cheaper and more accessible, health care has not.

- "Homosexual activity" is illegal in Qatar, the host of the 2022 World Cup. The FIFA head honcho has a solution - gay people don't have sex there! And they got picked over the US...sigh.

- A great interactive map to explore Census data - similar to the city maps of race I posted a while back, but interactive and you can plot income, etc.

- A followup to the Peter Orszag leaving for Citibank story I posted before.

1 comment

Don't Ask Don't Tell, and some non-DADT things
Mood: content
Posted on 2010-12-13 14:34:00
Tags: activism gay politics links
Words: 477

As I guessed last time, it looks like the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal's chances are not good. It's pretty disappointing especially considering that it's not going to get any easier with the next Congress.

I emailed my Senators about DADT, and Kay Bailey Hutchinson responded:

Dear Friend:
Thank you for contacting me about our nation's "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Officials from the Department of Defense previously testified before Congress that the current policy has served the military well. However, in recent months, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates publicly stated his support for repealing the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, pending the results of an internal Pentagon review.

The internal Pentagon review report was released on November 30, 2010, and its findings indicated that the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would bring about limited disruption to unit cohesion and retention. I respectfully disagree with the report's findings. I will not support a repeal of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. After speaking with military personnel and former leaders of our armed services, I remain very concerned about how repealing this policy could negatively impact unit cohesion and overall troop readiness -- especially during a time of war.

Our military has obligations around the world, including intensifying efforts to topple the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. I, along with many others, am concerned that a drastic change in the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy could hurt morale, recruitment, and retention at a time when our armed forces need to maintain a strong presence at home and abroad.

Please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind. I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope that you will not hesitate to keep in touch on any issue that is important to you.

Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator

Her response is disappointing but not surprising. I'm at least glad that's she's reduced to disagreeing with a Pentagon report based on anecdotal evidence...

Other politics things:
- A good chart of taxes by type. Taxes haven't been this low since the 1950s! And they're getting lower, which seems unsustainable.

- Peter Orszag, who until recently ran the Office of Management and Budget for the federal budget, is now taking a job at Citibank. I agree that this shows a problem with structural corruption even though there may be no actual corruption going on here. But it sure looks fishy.

- Today, a federal judge ruled part of the health care overhaul to be unconstitutional, although what this means in practical terms is very unclear, even if it stands on appeal.

Other other things:
- The Atlantic (now officially My Favorite Magazine(TM)) is currently making money. Hurray!

- Due to a giant snowstorm, the roof of the Metrodome collapsed and let in a bunch of snow. Really crazy footage there! (an HD version available here)


Don't Ask Don't Tell repeals fails, but isn't dead yet
Mood: confused
Posted on 2010-12-10 10:12:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 137

Senate Democrats (+ Susan Collins) failed to break the filibuster of the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal 57-40. As Andrew Sullivan points out, repealing DADT is supported by the American public, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the President, and the only reason it hasn't happened is because John McCain (who once upon a time said he would support repeal if the military chiefs did, which they do now) is filibustering it.

But, apparently (I've totally lost the politics at this point) DADT isn't dead yet - they're planning to introduce a standalone bill for repeal, which has to pass the House again, but Nancy Pelosi says it will. Of course this can still be filibustered so I'm not entirely sure why people think this result will different, but it's a tiny bit of hope before Congress adjourns.


tax cuts, Don't Ask Don't Tell
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2010-12-08 14:02:00
Tags: activism gay politics
Words: 239

President Obama cut a deal with the Republicans to extend all of the Bush tax cuts for two years (the Democrats had wanted to just extend the ones on the first $250K of income). In return, he got extending unemployment insurance for 13 months, cutting the payroll tax (a regressive tax) by 2% in 2011, boosts to some various tax credits that generally help low income families (Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, a credit for college tuition). Here are the details.

I understand how some people feel that this is terrible messaging on the part of Obama - the tax cuts above $250K affect the richest 2% of Americans, and they're generally not stimulative. But I think he got a decent deal given the hand that he was given, and the fact that Republicans were going to filibuster extending the tax cuts if they only covered income under $250K. From the Atlantic: 5 Ways to Look at Obama's Grand Bargain (which makes the point that a lot of these cuts will be stimulative) and A Good Deal for Democrats on Tax Cuts (admittedly written by a Republican).


Word on the street is that Don't Ask Don't Tell may come up for a vote tonight in the Senate to try to break the filibuster. Here's a list of swing Senators - please contact yours if he/she is on this list! You can follow along with coverage at AMERICABlog Gay today.


Repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell!
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2010-12-01 11:17:00
Tags: activism gay politics
Words: 231

The Pentagon's long-awaited survey on Don't Ask Don't Tell came out this week - you can read a summary here or see the full Pentagon report. Basically, it found that most servicemembers don't care one way or another and there's little risk in repealing DADT.

The House has already passed repeal, and so it's a race to get the Senate to pass it before the end of the year. Here's a list of Senators that are pivotal - especially if you're in one of these states, please drop a quick note to your Senators urging them to vote for repeal. Here's how to get in touch with your Senators. And here's the quick note I wrote to mine:

Now that the Pentagon study has been completed regarding Don't Ask Don't Tell, I would respectfully urge you to vote for repealing the policy. The study shows that for the majority of troops it makes no difference who they're serving with, and requiring gay and lesbian servicemembers to lie to stay in the military opens them up to discrimination and blackmailing. For the sake of fairness, equality, and national security, please vote to repeat Don't Ask Don't Tell!

In related good news, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a civil unions bill, and the governor is in support, so it just has to pass the state Senate. Here's hoping I can turn another state green!


just some links: movies, money, voting
Mood: frustrated
Posted on 2010-11-29 16:21:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 126

Animated Films for Grown-Ups - I really liked Spirited Away, and I think I need to watch more of these.

The best investment advice you'll never get - surprisingly interesting article wrapped around "index funds, not managed funds".

What Voters Really Care About - I'm not sure how trustworthy the results are. (since it's easy to ask this question but very hard to see how it would play out in practice) Still, it surprises me that "cheating on taxes" is worse than "convicted of violent crime"! And "homosexual" only makes it slightly less likely to get votes, except for Republicans. (and "believe in evolution" is pretty negative for voters over 65...)

XKCD strips classified by topic - good excuse to go back and view my favorites again, like this one!


Mood: okay
Posted on 2010-11-03 10:20:00
Tags: politics
Words: 175

First off, I'm glad I wasn't around last night to watch the results come in live. Losing > 60 House seats is pretty ouch.

But it wasn't all bad news. The Democrats held on to the Senate, and it looks like they'll have 52 or 53 seats. The Republican Senate candidate from Colorado, Ken Buck, who believes that being gay is a choice appears to be going down.

Sadly, the National Organization for Marriage managed to oust three Iowa Supreme Court judges who ruled for marriage equality (maybe those Iowans will stop being so smug...), but the judge who originally ruled for marriage equality kept his job, and generally NOM endorsed a lot of candidates that lost.

Our old state representative Donna Howard apparently won by 15 votes out of 100,000! (pending a recount, presumably)

Anyway, maybe now (or at least in January) we can get back to governing and fixing unemployment and all that. Or, maybe it'll be a giant mass of gridlock and nothing will get done. Which do you think is more likely?


cordoba house, ricky gervais
Mood: relaxed
Posted on 2010-08-20 16:54:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 133

As Nate Silver pointed out, there are two ways to be "against" the Cordoba House (Islamic center near ground zero). If you think it's a bad idea, insensitive to 9/11 families, but that the government shouldn't step in, then I disagree with you but we can discuss it rationally. If you think the government should step in and stop it, then I would encourage you to read the First Amendment and get back to me. (if you call it the "Victory Mosque", then we're probably not on speaking terms to begin with)

Random videos: Ricky Gervais had this series Extras with famous people guest starring. Here is David Bowie embarrassing Gervais, Sir Ian McKellen teaching him the secrets of acting, and (mildly NSFW language) Patrick Stewart being creepy. Good for a Friday afternoon!


bizarro world?
Mood: impressed
Posted on 2010-08-12 12:58:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 159

Wow. A CNN poll came out yesterday showing a bare majority of Americans supporting gay marriage, the first (real) poll to do so. In fact, it looks like support for gay marriage is accelerating over the last 16 months. Most astonishingly, Glenn Beck doesn't oppose gay marriage. Wow!

On the ground at JFK airport, after a passenger stood up early to get his luggage, a JetBlue flight attendant named Steven Slater told him to sit down. The passenger refused, and opened the overhead bin as Slater approached, and his luggage fell out and hit Slater in the head.

Then Slater got mad - cursed out the guy on the PA system, deployed the emergency slide, grabbed a beer from the beverage cart, and slid away. The police caught up to him at home, where he was allegedly having sex with his boyfriend.

For your enjoyment: a firsthand account, lots of people rooting for him, and the Ballad of Steven Slater.


prop 8. musical done! joining a choir?
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-08-09 14:14:00
Tags: asmc gay politics
Words: 556

Last week California's Prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. Hooray! I read the entire ruling (warning: 138 page pdf) and it's pretty convincing - the judge ruled that laws that discriminate against gays are subject to strict scrutiny, while Prop 8 doesn't even meet the rational basis test.

I followed along with the trial and it seemed pretty clear that our side would win - David Boies and Ted Olson (i.e. the head lawyers for Bush and Gore in Bush v. Gore) are fantastic lawyers, and the other side called very few witnesses which were easily discredited. I'm not sure what the rules are on appeal if the other side can "substitute in" other lawyers, but if the case goes all the way to the Supreme Court (as many expect) I think we have a decent shot at winning!

Ted Olson was on Fox News this weekend and it was very much a Nixon going to China moment - he explained very succinctly the case for gay marriage. I know he's been a conservative stalwart but he earned a lifetime pass from me with his work on the case.


The musical is done! The shows went well despite the A/C mostly being gone the second weekend. I've never sweat so much in my life. My favorite moment was getting hit in the face with a book while we were supposed to be frozen. A few seconds later my glasses fell off my face and hit the floor, but I stayed (mostly) frozen until we "woke up" :-)

Performing in the musical reminded me that I like to sing and I kinda miss it - even singing the kid-focused songs was kinda fun. So I'm thinking about joining a choir. My ideal choir would be something singing good classical music meeting at most once a week in which I know people. Here are the possibilities I've found: (in decreasing order of probability I'll join)

- Austin Civic Chorus - I was in the Austin Civic Chorus when I first moved to Austin. I liked the kind of music they sing, but I don't really know anyone in it, and I vaguely remember not liking the director, although that was a while ago and maybe I'm misremembering. Also, auditions are very soon and I may have missed my chance already. The Civic Chorus itself requires $180 dues (!) and their concerts aren't free, which makes me a little unhappy.

- Capital City Men's Chorus - I know at least a few people in it from the summer musical, and it looks like a fun group. The music seems to vary wildly in genre.

- Austin Singers - never heard of these folks before, but they do music I like. Rehearsals are Mondays 7-9:30 - kinda long and downtown.

- Conspirare - good group but looks a little serious/"too good" for what I'm interested in. They have a professional choir as well as a volunteer one, so maybe the volunteer one would be OK? To audition you have to submit a resume and they'll let you know, which honestly sounds kind of intimidating.

- River City Pops - I know some people in it from the summer musical, but the music they sing is, well, pop, and there's dancing involved which isn't really my cup of tea.


Anyway...I dunno. Anyone in one of these? Or interested in joining one of them with me? :-)


Don't Ask Don't Tell vote this week!
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2010-05-25 10:47:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 31

Congress is expected to vote on the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell this week, and it's unclear if they have the votes. Email your representative! It'll just take a minute...


health care (basically) passed! and a local shoutout
Mood: ecstatic
Posted on 2010-03-22 14:28:00
Tags: lj for webos essay projects politics links
Words: 409

The health care bill passed the House! The plan is for the Senate to pass it this week and then Obama will sign it into law.

The bill: Here's some information on the final bill - it was confusing for a while with the House bill and the Senate bill, but this is the final one. It expands coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans. It prohibits lifetime limits on insurance coverage and denial of coverage due to preexisting conditions. Yes, it's not a perfect bill, and it's hard to predict how well the cost control measures will work, and there's no public option, but there's a lot of good stuff in the bill. And it will be easier to adjust this bill in the future than if we had started over or given up because it wasn't "good enough". As James Fallows said:

There are countless areas in which America does it one way and everyone else does it another, and I say: I prefer the American way. Our practice on medical coverage is not one of these. Despite everything that is wrong with this bill and the thousand adjustments that will be necessary in the years to come, this is a very important step.

The politics: A bunch of reactions. My thoughts: elections matter, and this is why. (why yes, there is a difference between the Republicans and Democrats!) It's certainly possible this will be a political loser for the Democrats (although I think it will be popular in the long term), but the point of having power isn't to maintain power, it's to get things like this done.

Other randomness:
After canvassing the house for my lost camera, I bought a new one today from Precision Camera and Video. I was happy there - they let me play with it a bit and even open a few cases to find one I liked, and I get a free basic photography class which I might actually take advantage of. Good service and good prices!

Today marks the 100th sale of LJ for WebOS - thanks to all who have purchased it! I have a few new features I'm planning on working on soon. Coincidentally, I just got my first PayPal deposit from Palm, so that's exciting :-) I put myself up on theymakeapps.com.

Capital MetroRail opened today! Finally, commuter rail in Austin. Unfortunately, turnout wasn't great this morning, but I'd give it at least a few months to see how it goes.


Mood: stressed
Posted on 2010-03-19 13:14:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 155

It looks like the health care bill is going to have a vote on Sunday. TPM has constant updates. Nate Silver thinks things are looking relatively good for it to pass, although there's still time for it to fall apart. Firedoglake is keeping track of the whip count.

Remember that NY state senator who slashed his girlfriend in the face with a broken drinking glass? He got expelled from the state senate but was running for election again. Thankfully, he got crushed by another Democrat, who supports marriage equality to boot!

Wal-Mart is adding "MoneyCenters" to more of their stores, which offer check cashing at a much cheaper price than most other places. Neat!

It's official: the first Millennium Prize has been awarded to Grigoriy Perelman for solving the Poincaré Conjecture, although odds are he won't accept it. Who's up for proving the Riemann Hypothesis next?

Advice for filling out the Census for same-sex couples.

1 comment

Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-03-15 09:48:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 73

Nate Silver now gives health care slightly more than a 50% chance of passing.

A map of South Austin that looks like an old Zelda map - he used some software to autodetect trees, roads, etc.

MST3K Haiku - I think this one's from Prince of Space!

(this post is mostly an excuse to show off my new userpic. Been using it at work for a while and people are geeky enough to recognize it :-) )


link drop
Mood: restless
Posted on 2010-03-05 10:55:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 227

In New York state, various churches are supporting an anti-gay State Senator. This particular State Senator (Hiram Monserrate) was convicted of slashing his girlfriend in the face with a broken drinking glass and expelled from the State Senate. But, you know, he's against gay marriage!

It looks like Valve is starting up some sort of Portal ARG which is a pretty good sign there will be a Portal 2. Looking forward to it!

Is Obamacare a Favorite to Pass? - Nate Silver thinks it's about 50/50.

I think Apple might be turning evil. (to clarify, "evil" in the sense of "winning by taking advantage of people instead of by doing good work") They sued HTC over some pretty questionable patents - these days the way things work is that companies try to patent anything they can, including blindly obvious "inventions", but just hold on to them as a defensive mechanism. That way if they're ever sued for infringement they can countersue and usually both companies are infringing and so a settlement will result. But actually suing another company is pretty aggressive...not to mention a lot of the patents seem like stuff that shouldn't be patentable in the first place.

Now apparently they're trying to stop music companies from participating in Amazon's MP3 Daily Deal, which is pretty anticompetitive.

Pictures of NYC and Las Vegas from above at night - pretty!


link attack!
Mood: good
Posted on 2010-02-23 09:04:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 181

- There's a index of happy cities and states in the US (unsurprisingly Hawaii is the happiest state, although Utah and Montana tied for second). New Orleans is the 9th least happy metro area, and Rochester, NY is the 12th least happy. (although at least they beat Buffalo!) Austin did pretty well, too.

The Atlantic (best magazine ever, I remind you) did a a bunch of correlations on various demographic data to see what makes a city happy, and the most significant relationship was to education (or more precisely, what percentage of people had a bachelor's degree or higher) with a correlation of 0.68. Math!

- The White House unveiled their health care plan yesterday - here's a summary of how it compares to the House and Senate versions. There's going to be a "health care summit" later this week and then...who knows? Apparently they're open to passing it through reconciliation, which means they would just need a majority vote in the Senate instead of 60.

- Why Your Employees Are Losing Motivation

- The stimulus bill probably has already added 1.6 to 1.8 million jobs.


Texas politics...
Mood: amused
Posted on 2010-02-13 14:44:00
Tags: politics
Words: 31

Dear marginal candidates for Texas governor:

Please stop saying 9/11 was an inside job. You're making us (the state) look bad! (which, admittedly, is not that hard to do...)



health care
Mood: sad
Posted on 2010-01-20 10:24:00
Tags: dreams politics
Words: 366

Scott Brown (the Republican candidate) won Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat last night. Although it doesn't seem like an upset now, it certainly was a few weeks ago - the last time Massachusetts had a Republican senator was 1978 (thanks Wikipedia!)

While it's fun to play the blame game (hint: Coakley was a terrible candidate, exit polls showed voters had a 58-38 approval of Obama), the real question is what does this mean for health care? It is possible for the House to simply pass the exact bill that the Senate has already passed without the need for another Senate vote, which seems to me the most likely way for it to happen. Or they could change the bill and send it back to the Senate and try to tempt Olympia Snowe or some other moderate Republican and waste more months and months while not doing more to deal with the economy and get absolutely slaughtered in November. It sounds like the White House wants to get it done (Axelrod, Plouffe), but it depends on the representatives in the House.

Last night we read in bed for a while, and I finished up The Science of Fear which had a passage about how we spend way too much money on counterterrorism (given the actual risk of terrorism) and how we could spend that money on, oh, covering the 40 or so million uninsured in America. It really hit home - to throw away a bill that helps cover 30 million people because of a special election (not to mention all the time that was wasted to get to this point) really doesn't make sense.

Then I had trouble getting to sleep because I was a bit despondent about health care reform's chances. Then I had a bad dream: I was on a train with my family and the Chinese army and something happened with a plane and I got orders to fight the Chinese army (destroyerj was a member), and we eventually defeated them in battle, killed destroyerj, but my two sisters had died in the fighting.

Sooo I think I'm going to disengage from politics for a week or so. Except the Prop 8 trial, of course.


Prop 8 trial liveblogging
Mood: determined
Posted on 2010-01-12 14:13:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 27

As I mentioned yesterday, the Prop 8 trial started this week. prop8trialtracker.com has been doing a liveblog of the proceedings, which I've found to be pretty interesting.


Atlantic links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2010-01-11 10:54:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 257

Got a new issue of The Atlantic, and I'm only halfway through and I've already read two really interesting articles. I was sad when EGM died and would be sad if Newsweek stopped publishing, but if I lost my Atlantic heads would roll!

1. How America Can Rise Again - why things aren't as bad as they seem...except for our government/politics. The Daily Show covered this recently as well, which I especially enjoyed because people hearkening back to simpler times generally are looking through rose-colored glasses. (and are straight white males)

2. What Makes a Great Teacher? - Teach for America did a big study of their teachers and found what qualities correlate well with good teachers. And now they look for those qualities when hiring. And now (because of money the federal government is giving out) some school systems (DC's in particular) are tracking teacher performance. Good data => good findings => good results. Hooray for statistics!

David Boies and Ted Olson (the opposing counsels for Bush v. Gore) are bringing a case against California's Prop 8. People generally don't like its chances. Ted Olson wrote an editorial for Newsweek explaining his involvement - nothing shocking but it's nice to see the arguments coming from a conservative figure. (he was Bush's Solicitor General for three years)

When I read the paper this morning, I didn't expect to see an editorial by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees about a Supreme Court case involving the NFL. Color me surprised!

Obama hires a transgender bureaucrat, people accuse him of having a "transgender quota".


are the holidays here yet? links
Mood: bored
Posted on 2009-12-17 13:33:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 163

Health care reform - is it going to happen, and is the public option-less bill even worth passing anymore? Nate Silver asks 20 questions for people who answer "no", responds to people who answered them, and explains why he thinks it's still worth passing. Meanwhile, Atul Gawande (the guy who wrote that article about the rising cost of health care in McAllen) says that having lots of pilot projects (like the Senate bill does) is a good way to go and has worked in the past for farming.

For me, the holidays now have an odd association with Mythbusters since we seem to watch them when we're at my folks place a lot. Here's an old interview with the Mythbusters which I found pretty entertaining.

You know those Predator drones the Army is using in Iraq to target insurgents? It turns out the video they transmit is unencrypted(!) and insurgents have been able to intercept it easily.

A computer scientist looks at ICBM security.


NY same-sex marriage bill defeated, life goes on
Mood: optimistic
Posted on 2009-12-02 14:38:00
Tags: essay gay politics
Words: 244

The New York same-sex marriage bill, which passed the state assembly 88-51, was defeated in the state senate 38-24, which isn't even close. (Anyone who knows anything about NY politics: why is the state senate so against it while the state assembly is so for it? It seems weird to me.)

Between this and the Maine defeat, as @fivethirtyeight tweeted: "But boy, its been a rough couple of months for progressives." Indeed.

Perhaps it's time to change our strategy - it seems like the votes just aren't there in most places for same-sex marriage. Looking at the same-sex marriage map (which I apologize for linking every time I write about this stuff, but it's a good way to see at a glance where we are, and can't a guy self-promote a bit?) same-sex marriage is legal in 4 states (and will be in 5 when New Hampshire's law takes effect in January) and civil unions are available in 5 more, plus DC. I think we should focus on picking off more states where there are no civil unions and trying to push civil unions there - they have fairly broad support, and from a practical perspective there's not much difference, especially since no same-sex marriages are being recognized at the federal level anyway. Maybe Maryland, or Illinois, or Rhode Island, or (heck) New York?

Getting actual rights for gay couples in other states is a lot more important to me than getting their unions called "marriage".


health care optimism?
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2009-11-24 17:17:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 84

Based on the fact that the Senate health care bill barely got to the floor, and the fact that it sounds like 4 Senators (Landrieu, Lieberman, Lincoln, Nelson), were going to vote against it if it contained a public option, I was pessimistic!

But now after reading this article, I'm more optimistic that even if the bill that passes doesn't have a public option, it could still make a difference in health care costs. Also, that article is required reading in the White House!


no-longer-quite-as-rainy link friday
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2009-11-20 14:59:00
Tags: 23andme gay politics links
Words: 233

I finally took the plunge and ordered a 23andMe kit. I got the kit in the mail last night and spit into the tube (they wanted a lot of spit so it took 5 minutes to do), sealed it up and sent it off this morning. Now the waiting begins...

- The District of Columbia is proposing a same-sex marriage law. (yay!) The Catholic church, upon hearing this, warned that they would stop providing social services for DC if the law passed, despite the fact that they law specifically exempts religious organizations from having to recognize the marriages. They would, however, have to obey city laws preventing discrimination against gays.

- In other church news, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church leaders have signed the "Manhattan Declaration", saying they will not cooperate with laws about abortion or same-sex unions that they don't agree with. Again, every same-sex marriage law that I'm aware of carves out a pretty wide exemption for religious groups, so I'm a bit put out by this. HRC responds along the same lines.

- In other other church news, the Catholic Church has found that gay priests were not a factor in the sex abuse scandal. Who woulda thunk it?

- Gay Marriage & Marijuana: You can't stop either. Why that's good. I agree, although his timetable for 10 years having all states recognize same-sex unions seems a bit optimistic given the current state of affairs.


origami success!...mostly
Mood: accomplished
Posted on 2009-11-13 11:08:00
Tags: origami gay politics links
Words: 139

After a few hours of assembling, here's what I ended up with:

(more pictures behind the link) It's pretty unwieldly...hopefully it will survive on my desk for a little while.


- I've seen this around, but this support for same-sex marriage by age and state is pretty striking. Hopefully the 18-29 crowd will keep their opinion as they age :-)

- A US interstate map drawn like the London tube map. Really, I'm a sucker for anything that looks like a London tube map :-)

- Anyone else use Steepster? It's a neat way to keep track of teas and stuff. I might start recording ones I like...

- Because of some of the issues with Obama/the DNC I mentioned, a DNC donor boycott is being launched by the people at AmericaBlog. I signed up, although I don't know if I'll stick with it.

1 comment

a lotta links
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2009-11-06 12:11:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 146

Washington voters passed Referendum 71 which gives same-sex couples the right to domestic partnerships. So at least that's good news!

A bird with a baguette damaged the Large Hadron Collider - apparently it's not going to delay it going operational later this month, but it does bring to mind the whole fate bringing down the LHC theory. Alternatively, as someone near me at work commented, it sure makes the fears of it destroying the planet seem overblown if a bird with a baguette can damage it :-)

Austin extends COBRA benefits to partners of city employees - apparently Austin is the first city in the US to do so.

Since it's been so rainy, the drought in Texas has gotten much, much better.

Big Ben is on Twitter!

A crazy idea to build a dome over Houston (a la The Simpsons Movie) to protect it from heat and hurricanes.


feeling a little better
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-11-04 14:06:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 34

In the meantime, I updated the same-sex marriage map with the results from WA and ME, and added in percentages on votes the public had on same-sex marriage. (I think Mississippi's was the worst)


up yours, Maine
Mood: angry
Posted on 2009-11-04 09:35:00
Tags: rant gay politics
Words: 383

Same-sex marriage lost in Maine 47-53%. Angry profanity-laden rant behind the cut:

That makes the 31st state same-sex marriage has lost a vote in - still looking for our first victory. Here's who I'm mad at, in rough order:

DNC/Obama: The No on 1 campaign asked for DNC funds and didn't get any. Obama didn't lift a finger to help - he campaigned for (now-)former Governor Corzine in New Jersey, and even sent out a special email to people on his email list to vote for him. Maine got a generic "go out and vote" email with no indication of what they should vote on. He couldn't even be bothered to tell people to vote No on 1! Andrew Sullivan makes this point as well, more on the DNC not helping No on 1 in the slightest, more on Obama not helping.

Honestly, if they're not going to support the things I care about, that puts things in a whole new light. I don't support health-care reform because it would help me (because I doubt much would change for me), and if Obama's not going to lift a finger to support my causes, why should I support his? I will probably lay off giving money to the DNC for a while (or at least until I calm down) and give to candidates that support my values.

National Organization for Marriage/the Catholic Church: These were by far the largest contributors to Yes on 1. The Catholic Church gave more than half a million dollars while, at the very same time, closing parishes for lack of funds. NOM gave at least $1.1 million.

Maine voters: Seriously, guys? What the hell?

Governor Baldacci: Not mad at all - he had a change of heart and signed the gay marriage bill, and encouraged his supporters to vote No on 1.

The No on 1 Campaign: Obviously results are what matter, but they seemed to run a good campaign - this was no botched California Proposition 8-type scenario.

Hmm, not as profanity-laden as I had thought. Still, I'm mad.

On the good news front, Washington's domestic partnerships vote is looking good (they vote by mail so it takes a few days to get final numbers), and Annise Parker (an open lesbian) is in a runoff for Houston mayor. But Maine really stings.


election day!
Mood: unsure
Posted on 2009-11-03 08:36:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 148

Not much in Austin is that interesting (but go vote if you haven't already, blah blah blah) - there are a handful of races throughout the country, but the big ones for me are in Maine and Washington.

In Maine, same-sex marriage is being put to a vote (after the legislature passed it and governor signed it, it was put on the ballot by a "people's veto"), and in Washington state the same thing is happening with domestic partnerships. Nate Silver thinks keeping same-sex marriage is favored by a little bit in Maine, but the truth is that same-sex marriage has never won when put up to a vote (although domestic partnerships have never lost when put to a vote...interesting, no?) so a victory in Maine would be huuuuge. Really hoping to turn Maine dark green on the marriage map (and turn Washington, um, slightly darker green!) - here's hoping!


links...on friday
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2009-10-23 13:07:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 158

Why CDC says this year's flu season is "very sobering" - the graphs show way more people getting the flu so far than in previous years.

The Large Hadron Collider was completed last year, but there was a problem that required it to be shut down until around now. It's designed to try to find the elusive Higgs boson, which some physicists call the "God particle" because the current theory is that it's what gives all particles mass. The Superconducting Super Collider was a similar project that was canceled back in 1993. Some people have taken these facts and concluded that God or fate or something must be conspiring to keep us from finding the Higgs boson, which is crazy but also kind of neat.

Apparently New York Governor David Paterson is planning to push the same-sex marriage bill next week...hoping to turn NY green on the map soon!

A neat graphic of 50 years of space exploration.

1 comment

early voting happening now
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2009-10-22 12:43:00
Tags: politics
Words: 70

Believe it or not, it's time for another election. This one is fairly boring, but there are as always some TX constitutional amendments on the ballot. One of particular interest is Proposition 11, which would forbid eminent domain (the state taking private property) solely for economic development. (vote For!)

League of Women Voters Guide (.pdf)
Austin American-Statesman endorsements

Early Voting locations and times (.pdf) - they're open until next Friday.


A few late Friday links
Mood: determined
Posted on 2009-10-09 15:45:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 116

Weekend here yet? No? OK:

- Play this game of driving while texting! I am 0.78 seconds slower while texting and missed 10% more gates, considerably worse than the average.

- Carl Sagan, autotuned

- New survey shows rising support for civil unions - 57% of Americans support civil unions, 39% support same-sex marriage. We're getting there! Surprisingly, 49% said "homosexual behavior" was "morally wrong", so I give credit to the at least 8% that said that but also support civil unions.

- Paul Krugman answers readers' questions - interesting stuff.

- Some people said some nice things about National Instruments.

- Anyone else on Google Wave? Haven't quite figured it out, but let me know and we can be wave buddies or something!


at-work-early links
Mood: tired
Posted on 2009-09-22 08:37:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 210

A Bush speechwriter wrote a tell-all kinda book - an interesting excerpt:

For a commencement address at Furman University in spring 2008, Ed Gillespie wanted to insert a few lines condemning gay marriage. Bush called the speech too "condemnatory" and said, "I'm not going to tell some gay kid in the audience that he can't get married." (Of course, Bush ran his 2004 campaign telling that kid just that.)
Should I be happy that Bush wasn't really against gay marriage or mad that he pushed a constitutional amendment to ban it anyway? (answer: mad, I think)

LOST University is in session....only a few more months until new episodes come out!

Science links:

A team at NYU has developed a device that can identify materials by scanning them, kinda like a tricorder from Star Trek. It fires a laser through the object and studies the scattering of the light. Awesome!

Unsurprisingly, people you're friends with on Facebook tend to have the same views (religious, political) as you. More surprisingly, two students at MIT have used this data to predict which people are gay (who didn't declare it on Facebook). The data-loving part of me says "neato!", the squeamish-about-outing-people part of me says "kinda scary!"

Chronic Radiation Is Beneficial to Human Beings (maybe)


Respect for Marriage Act introduced!
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2009-09-15 13:27:00
Tags: activism gay politics
Words: 345

This bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and allow married same-sex couples the same federal rights as all other married couples. This is a big deal. Here's a fact sheet about it. (.pdf) Right now, it only has 91 cosponsors (out of 435 representatives) so drumming up support is important!

Here's what you can do:
- Find your representative and senators and write them asking them to support the bill. The email I wrote is behind the cut:

Representative McCaul:

I respectfully urge you to support the just-introduced Respect for Marriage Act of 2009. This act will repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and restore the "Full Faith and Credit" clause of the US Constitution to allow states to determine who is married, not the federal government.

Right now, 5 states allow same-sex couples to marry (see http://gregstoll.dyndns.org/marriagemap/ for a detailed breakdown), and in 3 of these states the couples were given this right through a legislative process. However, married same-sex couples in these states don't have the rights under federal law that other married couples do, such as Social Security survivor benefits, Family Medical Leave protections, and fair federal taxation.

As you probably know, Texas currently does not allow same-sex couples to marry (indeed, it is forbidden in the state constitution), and this bill would not change that. It would just give the same-sex couples that are married in states that have chosen to allow it the same rights as any other married couples. Marriage laws have always been left up to this states, and this would restore this practice as the Constitution intended.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.

-Greg Stoll

(a little tailored for Texas, obviously - change that part if you use it and you're not from here!)

President Obama supports repealing DOMA but it's going to be hard to get it through the House and Senate, and he's not investing any political capital in doing so. If you support repealing DOMA, please take a few minutes and write your representatives!


Rochester pictures, Obama's health care speech
Mood: resigned
Posted on 2009-09-10 10:26:00
Tags: pictures politics
Words: 117

Finally put pictures up from our Rochester trip this weekend:

Obama's big health care speech was last night - I caught a bit of it on the radio, but reading the remarks this morning it seems like a good speech and hopefully something will get done. (here's the plan in bullet point style) I'm glad he addressed some of the more ridiculous rumors like "death panels".

During the speech, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled "You lie!" to Obama, which got some boos. Here's a video - the look on Nancy Pelosi's face is priceless :-) Apparently he called afterwards to apologize to Obama.

I got my copy of Alien Hand Syndrome (i.e. the Damn Interesting book) yesterday. It is good!


still liking my Pre
Mood: confused
Music: Michael Giacchino - "Star Trek" soundtrack
Posted on 2009-08-20 14:17:00
Tags: palmpre programming politics links
Words: 131

Palm is now accepting submissions for the Pre App Catalog, so I went ahead and submitted PasswordHash. That one will be free but I'm thinking of charging $2 for my next one...

LabVIEW has a lot of handy keyboard shortcuts.

codepad.org is a neat place to quickly try out/share code in a bunch of different languages.

The latest in health care: maybe the Democrats are going to give up trying to compromise since the Republicans don't really seem interested, although Chuck Grassley may or may not be. Honestly, I've kinda given up trying to figure out what the hell is going on - I hope something good passes but hearing how laws that affect us actually get passed makes me sad.

The Longest Poem in the World made out of rhyming tweets.


link friday
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-08-14 13:26:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 97

A 3D animation of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field - pretty cool!

Someone diagrammed out a Choose Your Own Adventure. It turns out you're fairly likely to die!

If you like cuddly subatomic particles, you could do worse than the Particle Zoo. I would imagine it's Sheldon-approved.

Bill Clinton talks about Don't Ask Don't Tell and DOMA.

The American Conservative Union hit up FedEx for money for support on a bill, and when FedEx didn't bite, they recommended UPS instead. Shady!

An interview with Jim McGreevey, five years after he came out and resigned the New Jersey governorship.


post-honeymoon link friday
Mood: cheerful
Music: Bobby McFerrin - "Wanna Be"
Posted on 2009-08-07 10:15:00
Tags: wedding politics links
Words: 138

If you haven't seen it, here's a time lapse version of our wedding.

Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale in a neat way. Wow, he's looking old! I will always love him for his song on Square One.

These slides on Netflix's corporate culture are really really impressive.

Wal-Mart goes after the Girl Scouts - as is usual with Wal-Mart, theoretically good for its customers, bad for everyone else.

Rick Sanchez goes after a health care CEO who's against reform.

If you're interested in publishing your own games, TheGameCrafter.com is kinda like CafePress, but for games.

Spot the cyber-security tip that seems a bit out of place...

Speaking of Netflix, now that the Netflix Prize is over, their CEO says there will a Netflix Prize 2 coming soon. Cool! Perhaps I will be sucked back in...


pre-wedding links
Mood: nervous
Posted on 2009-07-15 13:10:00
Tags: reviews gay books politics links
Words: 202

The Episcopal Church voted to start putting together same-sex blessing ceremonies, which, you know, would have been awfully convenient. But still awesome!

In news that should surprise no one, scientists are way more likely to be Democratic than Republican, like 55%-6%.

The sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (my review here) has been announced: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters!

I recently bought a few comic books (or "graphic novels"?) after rewatching V for Vendetta and liking it. Quick thoughts, in the order I read them:

Batman: Year One - shorter than I expected but still pretty entertaining.

V for Vendetta - I was disappointed. The book is really long, and while there are some differences between the book and the movie, I mostly (horrors!) prefer what the movie did. I also found it somewhat difficult to tell what the hell was going on.

Batman: The Killing Joke - The artwork is really nice and I enjoyed the story. Wish it was longer (it was only 50some pages)

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Only halfway done (it's long!) but I'm enjoying it.

Anyway, after absolutely loving Watchmen my interest in comic books has kinda subsided - they're fun but not something I'm hugely interested in.


linky in spirit
Mood: cheerful
Music: Michael Jackson - "Black or White"
Posted on 2009-06-26 10:58:00
Tags: movies gay politics links
Words: 305

We watched Dial M for Murder last night. I had high hopes for it, having enjoyed Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" a few weeks ago, but this was even better! The opening 15 minutes or so were packed with tension, and although sometimes older movies don't hold up today since their twists have become terribly commonplace, this one holds up quite well. Highly recommended.

The Alamo Drafthouse had a tribute Michael Jackson singalong last night, and they say there will be more this weekend. I went to one of these in 2005 and it was a lot of fun.

Supreme Court rulings: strip-searching a 13 year old because you think they have Advil = very not OK (Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter), and crime laboratory technicians must testify to admit lab results into evidence, which sounds like it might be a fairly large change. That was a 5-4 ruling with an odd majority: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Scalia and Thomas.

If you're interested in the Supreme Court (and who isn't?), here's a chart of the justices' ideology over its history, which explains why seeing Stevens and Thomas agree on anything is pretty weird.

The DNC gay fundraiser I mentioned last week happened, and apparently Joe Biden gave a good speech and got a lot of applause. But it's hard to read this:

He said that gay and lesbian concerns will not be "delayed, put off or not end up on [Obama's] plate" because he is dealing with so many other issues.
since that seems to be exactly what's happening. I appreciate that they're pledging to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, but talk is cheap.

For you non-Austinites: it hit 107 degrees yesterday at the airport, and it's supposed to get up to 106 today. It is very very hot. Pity us!


teh gays !<3 Obama
Mood: irritated
Posted on 2009-06-17 16:08:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 230

Last week the Department of Justice filed a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act. Now, DOMA is the law and the Justice Department is required to uphold the law (although apparently previous DoJ's have published opinions saying they thought laws were unconstitutional), but the brief itself is pretty terrible - saying DOMA is consistent with equal protection, comparing it to laws banning incest, saying the right to marry isn't fundamental when it comes to marrying someone of the same sex. And according to Robert Gibbs (the press secretary) Obama stands behind the brief

So. This pissed a lot of people off. There's been a lot of unhappiness already about the lack of movement on DOMA and Don't Ask Don't Tell, and even the HRC published a kinda mad letter. A lot of people are pulling out of a DNC gay fundraiser next week. People generally feel betrayed.

Presumably to address these issues, Obama announced the he would grant same-sex benefits to federal employees, which is great except that said benefits don't include health insurance. Although it does include relocation assistance. Which is, ahem, something.

Anyway! Rant over.

A story of homeless Sims in The Sims 3. The narrative is pretty touching.

GameFAQs recently ran a Best Game Ever bracket, which Zelda: Ocarina of Time won. I was happy I've actually played a lot of the games in the final bracket!


filllllings...nothing more than fillllllings...
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-06-16 10:04:00
Tags: health gay politics
Words: 142

I went back to my new dentist at Shoal Creek Dental Care - the cleaning I had took a while but was much more pleasant than usual, and I got a tooth filled yesterday in 20 minutes, which is awesome. And my cheek/gums didn't hurt after the numbing wore off! I am quite pleased.

Courtesy of FiveThirtyEight, I found this awesome chart:

Some interesting things:
- Housing antidiscrimination is the most popular policy in all 50 states, but it's only been enacted in 20 states. My guess is that it's something that people don't run into that often (we've looked for housing in MD and TX and never felt discriminated against) so there's not much impetus to pass it.
- Bully for Iowa's Supreme Court, but I'm worried about marriage being overturned there.
- Obvious next targets for marriage: NY, RI, and CA (oh the irony!)


just this guy, you know?
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-06-10 11:49:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 99

A new poll came out showing that 69% of Americans favor allowing openly gay people in the military - up from 64% 5 years ago...and even 58% conservatives support it! For a point of comparison, when Truman integrated the army only 13% of the population supported it. Stephen Colbert is doing his show from Iraq this week (in front of troops) and last night did a segment on Don't Ask, Don't Tell which was pretty ballsy.

25 Great Calvin and Hobbes Strips

Remember that long health care article? Turns out Obama read it too and is taking it pretty seriously.

1 comment

I'm in a hurry to get things done...
Mood: stressed
Music: Dave Matthews Band - "Funny the Way it is"
Posted on 2009-06-05 13:34:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 166

Obama gave a big speech in Cairo yesterday - here's the full text and the hour-long video. Pretty impressive and even-handed.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, and the Chinese government tried to block foreign reporters from recording by...using umbrellas.

New Hampshire passed a same-sex marriage bill into law this week, leaving Rhode Island as the only New England state that hasn't legalized it. Which is pretty crazy when I stop and think about it. The map is turning more green!

A long article about gay marriage from a Burkean conservative point of view.

Loving Day, the anniversary of the Supreme Court striking down anti-mixed race marriage laws, is this weekend.

Cool guys don't look at explosions (video).

A long "screenplay" about how hard it is to get security right - this really opened my eyes!

Pixar vs. the Rest, or "Pixar movies, they make a lot of money and people like them".

Stem Cell Contact Lenses Cure Blindness in Less Than a Month - um, wow.


Yeah, yeah, my heart's in a whirl
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-06-01 11:53:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 145

May had some high points, but overall it kinda sucked, what with being stressed out with work stuff all the time. June looks to be somewhat better, but still stressful. July will be hectic for 17 days, then awesome, then more awesome. (August will be extremely stressful for about 4 days, then presumably back to normal) This would all be more managable if I hadn't been so moody. Hoping that goes away when the stress is gone.

This is a terrible, terrible attack on Sotomayor. Something tells me G. Gordon Liddy thinks women shouldn't hold any positions of power anywhere.

Bing is Microsoft's new search engine. It seems decent so far.

Nevada gets domestic partnerships (over the governor's veto) and Illinois's civil union bill makes it out of committee but not to the house floor although it's still possible it will in a special session.

1 comment

marriage: the gayening
Mood: chatty
Music: Michael Andrews -"Mad World (Alternate Version)"
Posted on 2009-05-20 14:54:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 189

The New Hampshire legislature narrowly didn't pass the gay marriage bill (amended as the governor requested), but sent it back to committee so it might come up for a vote again in two weeks. Of course, then who knows if the governor will sign it?

Supposedly the California Prop 8 lawsuit decision will be handed down tomorrow. If it overturns Prop 8 it's possible gay marriage will be legal in California again. Not having followed the proceedings at all I'd bet against it, though.

The Nevada legislature passed a domestic partner bill but the governor has said he'd veto it.

Gay Marriage Slow to Draw an Opposition in N.Y. - good?

All these things are keeping me on my toes updating the same-sex marriage map. Hoping to add a few small features later this week.

Non-gay marriage links:

You know how everyone says the divorce rate is 50%? Apparently that's not true if you look at it as how many people have ever been divorced.

Lost Season 5 recap with crazy crazy theories.

A review of "Glee" which we watched last night. I thought it was kinda (and surprisingly) good!


rumsfeld flashbacks
Mood: okay
Music: "Star Trek" soundtrack
Posted on 2009-05-18 10:41:00
Tags: happiness politics links
Words: 575

Apparently the President's Worldwide Intelligence Updates (prepared by the Pentagon) often had verses from the Bible on the cover, which makes me a little queasy. I agree that, if you're religious, there's nothing wrong with looking to your religion/God for faith and guidance, but this seems more like "Hey, the Bible says this whole war thing is A-OK, carry on!" The accompanying article is full of new information about Rumsfeld, including

The next day, three days after landfall, word of disorder in New Orleans had reached a fever pitch. According to sources familiar with the conversation, DHS secretary Michael Chertoff called Rumsfeld that morning and said, “You’re going to need several thousand troops.”

“Well, I disagree,” said the SecDef. “And I’m going to tell the president we don’t need any more than the National Guard.”

The problem was that the Guard deployment (which would eventually reach 15,000 troops) had not arrived—at least not in sufficient numbers, and not where it needed to be. And though much of the chaos was being overstated by the media, the very suggestion of a state of anarchy was enough to dissuade other relief workers from entering the city. Having only recently come to grips with the roiling disaster, Bush convened a meeting in the Situation Room on Friday morning. According to several who were present, the president was agitated. Turning to the man seated at his immediate left, Bush barked, “Rumsfeld, what the hell is going on there? Are you watching what’s on television? Is that the United States of America or some Third World nation I’m watching? What the hell are you doing?”

Rumsfeld replied by trotting out the ongoing National Guard deployments and suggesting that sending active-duty troops would create “unity of command” issues. Visibly impatient, Bush turned away from Rumsfeld and began to direct his inquiries at Lieutenant General Honoré on the video screen. “From then on, it was a Bush-Honoré dialogue,” remembers another participant. “The president cut Rumsfeld to pieces. I just wish it had happened earlier in the week.”

Another excellent article I read this weekend was What Makes Us Happy? in The Atlantic. (a magazine I consistently enjoy) It looks at a study that started following Harvard students in the 1930s and kept up with them until now, trying to determine what factors were most important to living a happy life. What they found was
Employing mature adaptations was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight. Of the 106 Harvard men who had five or six of these factors in their favor at age 50, half ended up at 80 as what Vaillant called “happy-well” and only 7.5 percent as “sad-sick.” Meanwhile, of the men who had three or fewer of the health factors at age 50, none ended up “happy-well” at 80. Even if they had been in adequate physical shape at 50, the men who had three or fewer protective factors were three times as likely to be dead at 80 as those with four or more factors.
(bolding mine) The "mature adaptations" they mention consist of
altruism, humor, anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort), suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse or conflict, to be addressed in good time), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport, or lust into courtship)
(bolding mine)

One more: here's Obama's commencement speech at Notre Dame.


hurried links
Mood: busy
Posted on 2009-05-15 14:34:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 198

Is it the end of May yet?

A Roomba's path (by taking a long exposure time picture) is pretty chaotic!

Yes, Star Trek: The Next Generation had a torture episode.

In The Fierce Urgency of Whenever, Andrew Sullivan is pretty pissed Obama hasn't done much for gays yet. I mostly agree, although I'm a bit more patient. It turns out Obama wrote a personal note saying he's "committed to changing our current policy" of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

The governor of New Hampshire says he'll sign the gay marriage bill if religious protections are added, which the legislature has indicated they'll do. Sweet! For the record, I have absolutely no problem with saying religions don't have to recognize gay marriages. (even though, to my understanding, they don't have to even without the wording he wants in the bill) After all these bills go into effect, Rhode Island will be the only state in New England without gay marriage. That is some craziness, folks.

With The 'Gay Tax,' Love Doesn't Come Cheap - why, despite the awesomeness that is states allowing gay marriage, the fact that it's not recognized at a federal level still costs couples a lot of money.


Hello New York friends!
Mood: hopeful
Music: Evanescence - "Lithium"
Posted on 2009-05-13 14:06:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 88

The New York state assembly passed a gay marriage bill last night, and Governor Paterson has said he'll sign it if it gets to him. Before that happens, it has to pass the state senate, where a gay marriage bill has failed before.

If you could take a minute and write or call your state senator and ask him/her to support the bill (the number is S4401, although I'm sure they'll know what you're talking about!) you could make a difference. And it would make me very happy!


Austin mayoral election
Mood: happy
Posted on 2009-04-26 12:09:00
Tags: essay politics
Words: 247

Yes, it's election season, or something! The Austin city election is May 9, and early voting runs from April 27 (tomorrow) to May 5. Here's a list of early voting locations (.pdf).

The "major" candidates are -

Lee Leffingwell - (Statesman article about him) He's a former airline pilot currently serving on the City Council. He spoke out early against the now-canceled Time Warner bhttp://www.austinleadership.com/blog.aspandwidth caps. He's been endorsed by many organizations around the city, including the Austin Chronicle and Burnt Orange Report. I think I'm going to vote for Lee.

Brewster McCracken - (Statesman article about him) He's currently serving on the City Council. He drove the Pecan Street Project to modernize the electrical grid in Austin. He's been endorsed by the Austin American-Statesman, and honestly seems like a pretty good candidate. I still might vote for him if I change my mind.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn - (Statesman article about her) Austin elections are officially non-partisan (I believe), but she's held statewide office as a Republican before. Nevertheless, she ran for governor in 2006 as an independent and was the mayor of Austin from 1977-1983.

Other ways to get direct comparisons between the candidates:
- Voters Guide (.pdf) from the League of Women Voters.
- Four questions for Austin's mayoral candidates

Minor candidates - neither one of these guys have held elected office before, as far as I can tell.
- David Buttross
- Josiah Ingalls

I read in the paper this morning that turnout in Austin city election is abysmal, hovering around 10%. VOTE!

1 comment

this week is over, this week is through!
Mood: groovy
Music: Garbage - "When I Grow Up"
Posted on 2009-04-24 11:19:00
Tags: health projects politics
Words: 60

I updated Pretty Pictures to include perlin noise, as copperwolf suggested, and added a tuning option. The pictures, they are prettier now.

On the tooth front, I only took one Advil yesterday...maaaaaybe it's getting better by itself?

I'm getting awfully tired of reading National Review editorials in my morning Austin American-Statesman, like this one saying torture really isn't so bad.


Seriously, Texas?
Mood: horrified
Posted on 2009-04-23 15:41:00
Tags: politics
Words: 60

From this poll:

QUESTION: Do you think Texas would be better off as an independent nation or as part of the United States of America?


You're telling me that 48% of Republicans in Texas think we'd be better off seceding?


post-birthday blues
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2009-04-21 13:01:00
Tags: health rant birthday work wedding politics
Words: 297

Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes! I had a nice dinner and post-dinner Rock Band session (we're Rock Immortals now!) and caught up a bit with my family. And we're making really good progress on wedding stuff, so that's gotten a lot less stressful. Also, now I'm 27, which is 33, and next year I'll be 28 which is a perfect number! (after that, it's all downhill, I'm sure)

That notwithstanding, things kinda suck right now. Let me run down why, because I'm sure you're all dying to know!

Torture - So when Ex-President Bush said "We don't torture", apparently what he meant was "We don't torture, except when we do". This is not terribly surprising, but it is a little depressing. (we waterboarded one guy 183 times in a month even after he had given up intelligence) I haven't had the heart to read the memos, but I applaud Obama for releasing them.

Work - The last week of work has been the worst week in at least a year. (I wish I had some sort of device where I recorded how work went that day, then I could track the data over time and say definitively how bad last week was!) This week is shaping up to be somewhat better, but it looks like I'm going to be generally stressed for at least another month and a half.

Teeth - As I mentioned, my filled tooth still hurts, and my mom and djedi convinced me to see the dentist again. And they took an X-ray and it looks like I need yet another root canal, to the tune of $1200 out of pocket. I'm going to get a second opinion, which means more work and stress and time away from work, which means more work stress. Argh.

1 comment

a cool toy and some anger
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-04-15 13:21:00
Tags: rant politics links
Words: 204

Cool toy: This ToneMatrix thingy. Note that if you right-click, you can copy and paste music in. My two quick compositions:

The scale is a pentatonic one (do, re, mi, so, la) which means that basically any combination of notes sounds good. The lack of dissonance gets a little...creepy? after a while, but it's fun to play with. There's actually a real instrument called the tenori-on that does something similar, and an iPhone version. (as well as another iPhone version by Brian Eno that looks even cooler)

Now. Today is Tax Day, and some conservative-types are holding tea parties to protest government spending. (and presumably the deficit?) Let me just say this - if you disliked Bush's expansion of government spending (specifically the Iraq war, Medicare expansion, etc.) and you're protesting, at least you're consistent. If you just hate Obama and everything he stands for, well at least you're being honest. But if you cheerleaded everything Bush did and started worrying about government spending and the deficit on January 20th, then you're not being serious. If you have no suggestions for what you want to cut, you're not being serious. If you favor tax cuts and lower deficits, you're really really deluding yourself.

1 comment

same-sex marriage legal in vermont!
Mood: ecstatic
Posted on 2009-04-07 10:03:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 35

This just in - the House passed the override vote 100-49, which is exactly what was needed. Vermont is the first state to allow same-sex marriage without a court order.

I have a map to update!


still happy about Iowa
Mood: giddy
Music: Radiohead - "(Nice Dream)"
Posted on 2009-04-06 14:04:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 166

Yep, I'm still happy about Iowa! Supreme courts in Maryland, New York, and Washington have all ruled against gay marriage in the past 3 years[1] And it provides a beautiful spot of green on an otherwise somewhat dreary map.

Nate Silver does a regression on states voting on gay marriage and concludes that, if a gay marriage ban in Iowa makes it to the ballot in 2012, the vote will probably be extremely close. I'm not sure if having same-sex marriage performed in the state for 3 years will help or hurt the cause. (it seems to have helped in Massachusetts?) Using the same model, he predicts Texas would vote down a ban on gay marriage in 2018, which is sooner than I would have thought.

Also up this week - the governor of Vermont is expected to veto the same-sex marriage bill today (after the Senate approves the House version), then override votes should be tomorrow.

[1] - See this article for a broader picture. (return)


gay marriage in iowa!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2009-04-03 09:12:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 108

See here! And it was unanimous!

Also, regarding the possibility of a constitutional amendment forbidding same-sex marriage (like Prop 8 in California):

Lobbying began immediately for lawmakers to launch the long process of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
No such legislation will be approved this session in the Iowa Senate, McCoy said. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal won’t allow it, he said.

Such an amendment requires the votes of a simple majority in both the Iowa House and Iowa Senate in two consecutive sessions, followed by a passing vote of the people of Iowa.
(from this article, emphasis mine)


The Daily Show and Colbert Report firing on all cylinders
Mood: excited
Music: Smashing Pumpkins - "The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning"
Posted on 2009-03-05 13:29:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 205

Last night was a prototypical example of these shows doing what they do best. Here's The Daily Show finding an assortment of clips from CNBC showing just how wrong they were (and why perhaps being self-righteous about homeowners who bought big houses is hypocritical):

Good stuff. (although presumably some people knew they were buying houses that were too expensive for them, but it's unfair to tar everyone that way)

And here's The Colbert Report talking about a Glenn Beck recurring segment - here he sets them up:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c

and here he knocks them down!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c

Seeing Watchmen tonight! Very excited!


links for everyone!
Mood: busy
Music: Official Lost Podcast
Posted on 2009-03-02 12:11:00
Tags: projects programming politics links
Words: 212

So I won the code bounty! I've really been enjoying writing Firefox extensions - it's easy to get started and fast to see results, and I'm starting to understand XUL better. Anyway, Kate (who offered the bounty) is going to polish it up and release it, at which point I might consider using it - it's convenient and is a better solution to passwords than a tiered password scheme.

I also got the $100 Amazon gift card, which I'm not sure what to do with. Is this good because I'm less materialistic or bad because I'm not excited about anything in particular at the moment?


- Happy Texas Independence Day!

- If you like crazy Obama theories, you'll like this Daily Show segment! Sometimes I wonder where they find these people...

- The government is bailing out AIG some more, but the real story is that AIG lost $62 billion in 3 months!

- In a recent study, only 29% of people supported gay marriage, but this number went up to 43% if assurances were made that no church would be required to perform gay marriages. Which is kind of weird, because no church is required to perform particular kinds of marriages today.

- Obama frames things as people versus corporations and industries rather than Republican versus Democrat.


obama's speech and an embarrassing memory from my past
Mood: embarrassed
Posted on 2009-02-25 13:23:00
Tags: essay politics
Words: 241

Obama gave a sort of State of the Union last night - here it is in full and it was pretty good I thought. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (who some hope will run for president in 2012) gave the Republican rebuttal. As TPM points out he does a very good impression of Kenneth the Page! (Nate Silver covers why complaining about spending money on volcano monitoring isn't a great idea since it has saved lives in the past)

Unrelated memory that was randomly triggered at lunch: In 9th or 10th grade I was in the Houston Masterworks Chorus with my mom. For one rehearsal she couldn't make it, and so she arranged for me to catch a ride with someone (me not being able to drive) who was going to pick me up from home. Well, I'm a pretty shy person so I hadn't actually met this woman, but I sat outside on the curb reading a book waiting to be picked up. A car pulled up and scene missing and somehow I thought this was my ride and got so far as reaching in the window and unlocking the door before she asked "What are you doing?" I quickly apologized and went back to sitting on the curb. It was mortifying! Hopefully she didn't think I was a carjacker but I have a feeling she did. Later my actual ride came and I was careful to ask before entering the car :-)


anti-gay monday!
Mood: amused
Posted on 2009-02-23 12:56:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 158

- Anti-gay ad in the Salt Lake Tribune - this is good wingnut territory. Takes a quote about "enhanced equal rights" and says that "Gays will have MORE RIGHTS than anyone else". I'll be sure to let you know when that happens, but equal rights would be just fine with me. Also apparently there was a Homosexual Declaration of War in 1987 where the gays want to sodomize your children? News to me.

Also, my word is this an ugly ad! Lots of random BOLDING and capitalization :-)

- Gay Snipers Attack Marriage In West Virginia Campaign Ad (VIDEO) - the gay snipers appear at :58 and it just gets better from there. (foreboding music! whooooo will think of the children?? religious liberty is losing to the gays!)

I certainly don't feel discriminated against on a daily basis, but it's good to remember that just because I'm lucky enough to live in Austin doesn't mean crap like this isn't going on other places.


early morning links!
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2009-02-17 07:31:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 256

I took quijax to the airport this morning and am now at work, so here are some links so I don't fall asleep!

- George Will writes a column saying global warming is bunk. (and then I had to check my nonexistent watch to ensure that it was still the year 2009) Nate Silver and Talking Points Memo point out the crazy inaccuracies.

- I was grabbing breakfast and caffeine at Starbucks this morning, and happened to see this story in The USA Today: Supreme Court case with the feel of a best seller. The lede:

In a small town, a local resident claims wrongdoing by a big corporation and wins a multimillion-dollar award after a jury trial. The corporation's CEO then pumps enough campaign money into a judicial election to get a new judge on the state supreme court. During an appeal, that judge casts a critical vote siding with the corporation — and reversing the resident's victory.
It's a Grisham novel and West Virginia, all in one! That is some terrible...something.

- Michael Lewis (he of Moneyball fame) writes a basketball piece about Shane Battier of the Houston Rockets. (go Rockets!) Despite his terrible "traditional" statistics, he does a lot of things that make the people around him play better, especially defense. I haven't watched a game of basketball in a few years but still enjoyed the article a lot.

- 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know

- Nate Silver predicts the Oscars - he's kinda the golden boy of predicting things now!

- Magenta Ain't A Color - neat, weird.


a few links with no coherent theme
Mood: okay
Posted on 2009-02-06 14:43:00
Tags: gay politics links
Words: 97

- The world gets its first gay head of state (although it's a little backdoor - the actual head of the party is taking a leave of absence).

- Obama Justice Department Re-Hires Attorney Fired By Goodling Because Of Lesbian Rumor - aww, nice! Also, that's a pretty crappy thing to do in the first place.

- Obama explains why we need a stimulus bill in an editorial in the Washington Post. The best line is the tagline: "The writer is president of the United States."

- Surveillance Pic Shows Man Robbing Stores With Klingon Sword - the clerk recognized it as a Bat'leth.


Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2009-01-20 12:38:00
Tags: weight politics
Words: 58

I've been kinda reluctant to post about my weight publicly, but in the spirit of shaming myself into shape, here are the graphs I look at each morning. (made in R!) Light jogging around the neighborhood has helped me feel more in shape...hopefully I can keep that up.

Also, I hear we have a new president or something?


There is a difference between Republicans and Democrats, part 0x23fb
Mood: frustrated
Posted on 2009-01-13 11:00:00
Tags: politics
Words: 409


Ken Blackwell, who is running to be the head of the RNC (which effectively makes him the leader of the party), said the following:

MS: Did you choose to be heterosexual? Did you wake up one day and say I want to be heterosexual?
KB: The answer is that I've never had to make the choice because I've never had the urge to be other than a heterosexual, but if in fact I had the urge to be something else I could have in fact suppressed that urge.
MS: But you realize people were insulted when you compared [homosexuality] to arson and kleptomania. I would like you to explain that because, how does that get into this whole "choice" issue? I mean, kleptomania is a compulsion.
KB: Well, the fact is, you can choose to restrain that compulsion. And so I think in fact you don't have to give in to the compulsion to be homosexual. I think that's been proven in case after case after case...
KB: If in fact you would feel better for me to say to you that, one, I believe homosexuality is a compulsion that can be contained, repressed or changed, and that makes you feel better, then that is what I'm saying in the clearest of terms.
(MS is Michelangelo Signorile, KB is Ken Blackwell - see full interview with audio) And, not that this is news, Mike Huckabee and Ann Coulter compete to be the least gay-friendly, or as they call it, "pro-sodomy", because how I have sex is vastly more important than the fact that I love a guy. (not addressed, but I assume they're against sodomy for straight couples as well?) I didn't realize that Huckabee pushed an amendment to ban sodomy in the state of Arkansas when he was governor.

I would argue the Republican party is getting more homophobic than it was under Bush - he didn't do much for us but he didn't seem to have a problem with gay people per se. Ken Blackwell is saying just being gay, even if you never have sex, is wrong.


Obama is set to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Obama wants to publish some secret legal opinions.

I should really make a collection of these that I can point people to when I hear that the Republicans and Democrats are the same. (not that I hear this much anymore, but that's what a lot of people thought in 2000)


just so I feel caught up
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-12-29 10:52:00
Tags: travel gay politics links
Words: 326

Back from vacation! Christmas and related activities were good and fun and relaxing. Enjoyed spending time with family and got a lot of work done on whereslunch.org - only remaining things on my list of "must fix before launching" are dealing with IE and possibly adding tag editing (which will be a pain).

Driving back to Houston tomorrow to watch Rice play in the Texas Bowl, and driving back the next day - glad I have a plan for that now.

There has been some controversy about Obama inviting Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. He's the pastor of Saddleback Community Church and while he has focused on poverty and the plight of AIDS victims, etc., he did endorse Prop 8 in California. It turns out he did so on a Friday 10 days before the election on his church's website (not anywhere more public) and neither he nor his wife donated money to the campaign. Obviously I don't agree with him, but I'm all for engaging people we disagree with, and Rick Warren is no James Dobson or Fred Phelps. Plus, it's just an inauguration - not like he'll be writing policy or anything like that!

Oh, what the heck...some more links:
- 90% of the copies of World of Goo are pirated - yeah, yeah, I know not all of those people would buy the game, but this is kinda depressing. It's cheap ($20), it's DRM-free, and it's a good game!
- The US Census Bureau just released the 2009 version of the Statistical Abstract of the United States = tasty tasty data. Maybe I will do a project in R...
- A Russian professor predicts the breakup of the US in 2010. The map at the bottom is pretty awesome. I definitely think states like Kentucky and Tennessee would be excited about joining the European Union. Sheesh!
- No big surprise: text messages costs carriers nothing - I didn't realize SMS was designed to fit inside a control message, neat!


big pile o' links
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-12-19 14:18:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 211

- Brett Favre beats Lizard People - the Minnesota recount goes on, and things get weird.

- The Strange and Bizarre Story of Wallace Scarborough’s Fight Against Democracy - hopefully the South Carolina House of Representatives does the right thing here, as it looks like the guy just lost.

- Scientists debunk the myth that you lose most heat through your head - my mom was wrong!

- Music Industry to Abandon Mass Suits - umm, a few years too late?

- In 2006, a Embraer Legacy 700 hit a Boeing 737 over Brazil. Vanity Fair just printed an article about the crash and how it happened. There was a writer on board the Embraer - here's his story in the NY Times about a week after the crash.

- Austin is the fifth safest city of cities of reasonable size! (500,000+ people) Houston is the 10th most dangerous of those.

- Austin 3G speed test - AT&T wins overall, although it's terrible downtown.

- Typo In Proposition 8 Defines Marriage As Between 'One Man And One Wolfman' - ah, the Onion...

- Air Traffic in 24 hours - seen it before but always interesting to see the pattern of flights as the sun comes up and goes down.

- A three-time wrestler explains why "The Wrestler" is good - interested in seeing this movie although I'm not sure why.


links links links links links links links links
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-12-11 14:31:00
Tags: travel gay politics links
Words: 87

I'm trying out Firefox 3.1 Beta 2 - the new fancy Javascript engine makes things (like whereslunch.org, which I really should work on more) much faster!

- A collection of tourist scams that I found interesting.

- James Franco and Sean Penn kiss on camera in "Milk" and get lots and lots of questions about it.

- Obama is crazy popular these days, way more popular than Bush or Clinton were when they came into office. 79% say they won't miss Bush and 48% say he's been worse than most presidents.


"Blagojevich" is hard to spell
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-12-09 14:56:00
Tags: politics
Words: 304

Here's the FBI press release about the arrests (PDF file). Innocent until proven guilty, etc., but the press release is pretty damning. Some of the more interesting bits:

As recently as December 4, in separate conversations with Advisor B and Fundraiser A, Blagojevich said that he was "elevating" Senate Candidate 5 on the list of candidates because, among other reasons, if Blagojevich ran for re-election, Senate Candidate 5 would "raise [] money" for him. Blagojevich said that he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided Blagojevich with something "tangible up front."
Blagojevich told Deputy Governor A on November 3 that if he is not going to get anything of value for the open seat, then he will take it for himself: "if ... they're not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it." (skipping) He added later that the seat "is a [expletive] valuable thing, you don't just give it away for nothing."
Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being "stuck" as governor, a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor, a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016, ...
(bolding mine) Wow. I guess he knew he was going to be caught soon or something. Soo glad they did this before he chose someone for the seat.
There's some more stuff in there about pay-to-play and getting editorial writers on the Chicago Tribune critical of him fired in exchange for a tax break. Hooray for the FBI and catching scum like this!


this week in corruption
Mood: sick
Posted on 2008-12-09 09:58:00
Tags: politics
Words: 97

- In a shocking upset, Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) lost his reelection bid on Saturday in a very Democratic district. He had been indicted on corruption charges before but still managed to win his primary. The FBI famously found $90,000 of cash in his freezer. Hooray to the voters in LA-2 who finally saw the light!

- Just in: Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff were just arrested by the FBI on corruption charges. They're alleging they "conspired to gain financial benefits in appointing President-elect Barack Obama's Senate replacement", which obviously is pretty embarrassing for Obama.


i'm kinda busy, but here are some links I enjoyed and thought you might enjoy as well!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-11-20 12:45:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 244

Finally everyone called Missouri for McCain (so long, bellwether state!), and Obama won 1 electoral vote from Nebraska's 2nd congressional district (the one with Omaha in it), so the final electoral total is 365-173, and Obama won the popular vote by around 7% (see CNN's final results), which is a lot for modern elections. This is the largest percentage of popular vote win for a Democrat since LBJ in 1964. He flipped 9 states from red to blue from 2004.

Senatewise, Ted Stevens did in fact end up losing in Alaska, so you Alaskans are off the hook...for now. Georgia senate race goes to a runoff since the Republican won just under 50% of the vote. In Minnesota, there's an ongoing recount between Al Franken(D) and Norm Coleman(R) - Coleman is currently ahead by 172 votes (down from 215 before the recount started). Here's a neat feature where you can see some of the ballots that are being challenged and vote on how you think they should be called. I think #5 is my favorite!

South Park creators to write Broadway musical lampooning Mormons - so many mixed emotions. Angry at Mormon church for funding Yes on Prop 8 in California. Not real comfortable with a musical making fun of someone's religion. Amused it's being co-written by the writer of Avenue Q. Amused the lead role is being played by an openly gay actor.

This Daily WTF is yet another remarkable case of programming without thinking.


ok, not quite over the election yet
Mood: calm
Posted on 2008-11-06 10:59:00
Tags: election politics
Words: 198

A lot of stuff is coming out now that the election's over. For example, apparently (and I honestly have a hard time believing this) Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country, and refused interview preparation for the disastrous Katie Couric interview. This seems to put in doubt thoughts of running in 2012. Here's more on the "civil war" between McCain's people and Palin's people.

Nate Silver on what the hell happened in Alaska - looks like the most likely scenario is that Democrats didn't show up to vote since the election had been called by then. Bad Democrats!

More of the Newsweek special election project - it's hard to link to so here are the chapters that have been released. It's really fascinating stuff if you're interested in what was going on inside the campaigns!

All seven chapters are now released!


trying to move on
Mood: distracted
Posted on 2008-11-05 14:54:00
Tags: politics
Words: 98

Trying to detox from election coverage. No on Prop 8 is not conceding yet, but looking at the numbers it's hard to see how Prop 8 fails to pass. Don't really want to write more about it, except that progress is never easy but I'm confident we'll win in the long run.

Newsweek's "special election project" had a lot of access to the campaigns over the last year on the condition that they not publish anything until after the election. Here's the summary of what they're going to cover, and here's part 1 of their 7 part report.

1 comment

probably the craziest result of the night
Mood: amazed
Posted on 2008-11-05 10:31:00
Tags: election politics
Words: 117

Convicted felon Ted Stevens is winning in Alaska. Words fail me. Except for "what the hell is wrong with y'all up there??"

From TPM:

4:21 AM ... Now that Alaska seems on its way of reelecting its convicted felon senator and its (little doubt) soon to be indicted member of the House, I realize that perhaps I judged Sarah Palin too harshly. In the context of Alaska politics, I guess she really is a reformer.

4:26 AM ... Now that the "Bradley Effect" seems set for a richly deserved retirement, TPM Reporter Eric Kleefeld suggests christening the "Stevens Effect" -- the poll distorting effect of poll respondents unwillingness to admit they will vote for the convicted felon in the race.


final election results for tonight
Mood: a little teary-eyed
Posted on 2008-11-05 02:18:00
Tags: election politics
Words: 343

Re my predictions:
- Obama picked up all those states, plus Florida. Most networks have called Indiana for him which would put him at 349 electoral votes. It looks like he's barely ahead in NC with 100% of the vote in, and barely behind in MO with 98% of the vote in. Although the last few states were close, the election certainly wasn't and we don't have to worry about recounts or anything like that. Still kinda in shock he won Ohio and Florida and Indiana!
- Senate: Dems did win seats in VA NM CO NH NC, with AK results not in yet and OR looking to be very close. The GA race has Saxby Chambliss(R) at 50.38% (he needs to stay above 50% to avoid a runoff) with 99% of the vote in, so that's pretty close. Al Franken(D) is barely ahead in MN with most of the vote counted.
- House: Dems pick up somewhere between 12-31
- California Prop 8 looks like it's gonna pass, I'm sad to say - "yes" is winning 52-48 with 62% of the vote in. I'm gonna assume it loses for peace of mind - staying up later hoping for a big comeback is probably not great for my health.

(oh, apparently a lot of GA early votes haven't been counted yet, so that could change things with the senate race and even the presidential one!)

I'm disappointed about Prop 8, of course (whose brilliant idea was it to let people take away rights by a simple majority? /sigh) but you know what? You can take away my legal rights, but you can't take away my djedi. It sucks to be in a state of legal limbo, but there are far worse things. We'll keep fighting the good fight and live our lives in the meantime. (encouraging words from Andrew Sullivan) I'm so overwhelmed by the historic nature of Obama's win and the fact that, with a solid majority in the Senate and House, hopefully he can get things done.

I stayed up later than David Gregory and Keith Olbermann!


still up watching results
Mood: ecstatic
Posted on 2008-11-04 23:57:00
Tags: politics
Words: 50

Obama already has 338 electoral votes and he could very well win North Carolina and Indiana!

McCaul beat Larry Joe Doherty in TX-10. Oh well.

Staying up for a bit to see how Prop 8's doing (exit polls show it losing but it's close) and to avoid a hangover tomorrow :-)


President-elect Barack Obama
Mood: ecstatic
Posted on 2008-11-04 22:15:00
Tags: politics
Words: 10

He took Ohio AND Florida. Well deserved. I'm so happy!


happy election day!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2008-11-04 09:39:00
Tags: politics
Words: 115

and one last time, VOTE! Even if you're not in a battleground state, there are downticket races that matter, and the popular vote margin matters, and you'll feel good about yourself.

I should have taken today off and worked for Obama or Larry Joe or someone. Oh well. Maybe next go-round...

Nate's top 10 reasons exit polls are useless

I really think Obama's gonna win and we'll look back on this as an historic election, unlike the disappointing 2004. For a look back in catchphrase form, there's This. Fucking. Election. I barely remember some of this stuff - it was so long ago!

Finally, here's Big Bad John (who will probably win today) one last time:

1 comment

oh my goodness please count the votes already!
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-10-31 13:42:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 420

This cheery bit by CNN asked people to say something nice about the candidate they're not supporting. Here's mine: John McCain served our country honorably. I can't imagine being locked up in a POW camp for five and a half years. I appreciate what he tried to do with campaign finance reform. I like that he believes in global warming. I think he really would try to reduce lobbyist influence. Sadly, before this campaign this list would have been a lot longer...

Here's my list of things I want to happen on Election Night, in order of importance:
- Obama is elected, preferably by a fairly wide margin to avoid shenanigans.
- Prop 8 in California (the one banning gay marriage) fails - the polls show it will be a tight race and I'd like to stay up until it's called. Prop 8 passing would be a huge huge setback for the gay rights movement.
- Democrats get to 58 senate seats (60 is required to stop a filibuster but 58 is probably close enough for most issues) - seems pretty likely.
- Larry Joe Doherty wins our congressional district (TX-10) - seems fairly unlikely now.
- Rick Noriega wins the TX senate race - seems pretty unlikely now.

I'll post my predictions on Monday. In the meantime there's this neat Google electoral map to play with.

Looks like abstinence-only education is losing support. (I wrote about abstinence-only education pissing me off a while back)

"Spreading the wealth" as an attack on Obama doesn't seem to be catching on. I would add that raising the tax rate on income above $250,000 from 35% to 39.6% is not "socialism". If you're against higher taxes on those making more than $250K a year, fine, but is it too much to ask to have a reasonable discussion about it? (yes is it, mostly) I also read an editorial (well, OK, the first few sentences of an editorial) in the paper this morning about how raising taxes lowers the incentive of entrepreneurs to make more money. I see how this is true in the abstract sense, but who says "well, I was going to make millions but it's not worth it if I might have to pay slightly more of that extra money in taxes! I'll just keep watching football or whatever."?

We drove by the early voting place at Randall's (183 and Braker) and the place was packed - the line to vote was well out the door. Burnt Orange Report has been tracking the early voting stats - here's their latest.

Happy Halloween!


closing ads
Mood: cheerful
Music: scaaaaary Arabic music
Posted on 2008-10-30 12:31:00
Tags: 23andme genetics politics
Words: 65

Work is being stressful, but I'm eating lunch and happy for now...

Interesting ads from both sides: here's Obama's hitting McCain on the economy and (for the first time I can remember) Palin:

and here's McCain's hitting Obama for wanting to talk to Iran without preconditions, complete with scary staticy backgrounds and Arabic music. Grrr.

The Retail DNA test is Time's Invention of the Year.


Attacks on Obama vs. attacks on McCain
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2008-10-29 12:24:00
Tags: essay politics
Words: 678

I've been reading a lot about politics this year, although my sources range from relatively neutral to "in the tank" for Obama. But even so, I've noticed that the attacks on Obama seem to be far crazier than the attacks on McCain. It's hard to say whether this is true since the sort of sites I read tend to highlight the crazy attacks being made Obama, and I guess I don't entirely know where the crazy attacks on McCain are coming from. (I read dailykos.com which definitely had some questionable things, but still not as bad as what's being flung at Obama)

So I watched a segment of the Daily Show last night with interest, a segment where John Oliver went to Obama and McCain rallies and found people saying crazy things. Here it is:
As I was watching, it struck me that indeed the attacks on Obama were crazier. Let's break down each one by true/reasonable, grain of truth, and not true:
on Obama: If he is elected, we will have terrorists in our country. Didn't say he was a terrorist, so she could be saying he won't defend our borders, which is a reasonable concern. grain of truth
on Obama: He'll put a turban on, go in the White House and "we'll all be shot". not true
on Obama: He's a Muslim, we don't know enough about him. He is not a Muslim! not true
on Obama: It would be a takeover of our country, he doesn't understand the radical Islam perspective. Close to saying he's a terrorist, but this is a valid concern. grain of truth
on McCain: Idea of McCain becoming president is terrifying. This is pretty vague... grain of truth
on McCain: The conservative turn the country would take is scary. "Scary" is subjective, obviously, but McCain is obviously a conservative. true/reasonable
on McCain: The pick of Palin scares the living daylights out of me. Again, too vague to be true grain of truth
on McCain: Palin has proven to be most ineffectual and unintellectual woman out there. Hyperbole but there's a valid concern in there grain of truth
on McCain: McCain's out of touch, doesn't know about Twitter, Flickr, Youtube. Probably true but not a totally valid concern grain of truth
on Obama: Been tied up with a lot of "groups like that" like ACORN. Technically true, although I have a feeling if they hadn't suddenly cut the interview this would have gotten crazier true/reasonable
on McCain: Pals around with Keating Five people. "Pals around" is a bit iffy but he was one of the Keating Five... true/reasonable
(skipping two incomplete thoughts, one on both sides)
on Obama: Scared to death of him, have thirteen grandchildren, there will be no America left. Um, OK. not true
on McCain: Have a ten year old daughter who's grown up with war, would like her to have four years of peace. Borderline but McCain is definitely more hawkish than Obama, and he supported the war in Iraq where Obama didn't true/reasonable
on McCain: Roe v Wade would definitely be "under threat". Seeing as McCain now supports overturning it... true/reasonable
on Obama: We have to realize killing babies is out of line. Inflammatory language, but at least there's an issue behind it true/reasonable
(skipping McCain should have left the party when he's still having fun, because I don't understand)
(skipping Obama: "show me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are" because it's not specific enough)
on Obama: isn't living in a realistic world when it comes to his Islamic views again, didn't say he's a Muslim, and a valid concern true/reasonable
on Obama: if he becomes president, America as we know it is gone. not true

So, to summarize in table form:

Attacks on ObamaAttacks on McCain
grain of truth24
not true40

Obviously it's impossible to do this objectively, but I did my best. Innuendo was flung around at McCain, but no one said anything like America would be destroyed if he was elected.


hodgepodge of whatever
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-10-29 11:22:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 275

NBC is back on Time Warner! Yaaaaay! And just in time for 30 Rock, too! (first episode is Thursday, I believe) A sure sign the dispute is over: thetruthhurtskxan.com is no more.

More Thriller: another video of the Austin event and an a capella version all done by the same guy with 64 tracks. (too bad his voice isn't that great) I think I'm done with Thriller links for now.

Charles Barkley might run for governor of Alabama in 2014. From the interview:

Brown: So are you going to run for governor?

Barkley: I plan on it in 2014.

Brown: You are serious.

Barkley: I am, I can't screw up Alabama.

Brown: There is no place to go but up in your view?

Barkley: We are number 48 in everything and Arkansas and Mississippi aren't going anywhere.

An old report on the disaster in election coverage that was Florida in 2000.

Obama is sorry to see McCain stoop so low:
We've tried it John McCain's way. We've tried it George Bush's way. It hasn't worked. Deep down, Senator McCain knows that, which is why his campaign said that "if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."

That's why he's spending these last few days calling me every name in the book. I'm sorry to see my opponent sink so low. Lately, he's called me a socialist for wanting to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can finally give tax relief to the middle class.

By the end of the week, he'll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in Kindergarten.

1 comment

Mood: worried
Posted on 2008-10-27 17:38:00
Tags: politics
Words: 27

Stories like this are why, when I wake up and see a CNN Breaking News alert I wasn't expecting (like, say, this morning), I get involuntarily nervous.


politics, whereslunch, magazines: an entry in three parts
Mood: awake
Posted on 2008-10-24 10:19:00
Tags: whereslunch projects poll politics links
Words: 410

Will Ferrell was on SNL last night as George W. Bush and it was pretty good (although maybe not "one of the best skits ever"). It still looks like Obama is way ahead. It warms my heart that someone who wants to investigate all members of Congress to see whether they're pro-American or not (hello, Joe McCarthy!) can suddenly find that most people won't stand for that crap. Obama makes a good fantasy football partner. Also, politics has always been sleazy - this is not a recent phenomenon.

Where's lunch:
This is my project for a google map of lunch places in Austin. It's kinda stalled out, because I haven't had a lot of free time and I can't decide what to do next. Right now you can view restaurants, rate them, leave comments, color the markers based on rating and some other things, and filter which markers are shown. (if you're interested in trying it out, drop me a line and I'll hook you up) Things I want to add at some point:
- letting people add restaurants themselves. This is kind of a pain to do, and raises some security issues and means I have to police the data to some extent.
- suggesting restaurants you might like based on other people's ratings. This isn't too hard to do but since there are few ratings in the system it won't be interesting for a while.
- add user profiles where you store where you work and you can limit lunch places by their estimated time for lunch (2 * travel time + time it takes to get food).
- putting ads on the site to make $$$
So, how interested would you theoretically be in these features?

Time vs. Newsweek:
When I was a kid, I had a penchant for stupid rivalries. We got the Houston Chronicle, a friend got the Houston Post so I immediately assumed the Chronicle was better, "rooted" for it, and was not exactly happy when the Post folded but I felt victorious. Same thing for Newsweek and Time - we got Newsweek and it was clearly better for no particular reason.

But now I'm wondering - maybe Time is the better magazine? I like some of the columnists Newsweek has (Fareed Zakaria, Anna Quindlen) but Time has Joe Klein, and I read a copy randomly this week and it was pretty interesting. I barely get through the magazines we have, so getting both is not a reasonable option. Which should I get?


more early voting info
Mood: blah
Posted on 2008-10-23 11:51:00
Tags: politics
Words: 109

As a follow up to my previous early voting post:

Here's the Austin League of Women Voters Guide (20 page pdf). Part of the irritating part is knowing which local things you get to vote for - this Travis County voter registration lookup tells you what congressional and state senate district you're in, as well as your county commissioner district, and even your polling place on election day if you're unable to early vote. Here's a sample ballot lookup for Williamson County.

Interestingly, the Austin American-Statesman voting against Proposition 2 (the "Stop Domain Subsidies one") this morning. I was planning to vote yes on it, but now I'm not sure...


Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama
Mood: groggy
Posted on 2008-10-21 11:39:00
Tags: politics
Words: 354

Here's the video. The best part (to me) was this:

I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.


seriously, is it election day yet?
Mood: content
Posted on 2008-10-20 13:11:00
Tags: politics
Words: 126

Two things I forgot:
- Here are the Sarah Palin bits on Saturday Night Live which I couldn't watch because of stupid KXAN and stupid Time Warner. The skits are pretty funny although Palin has a very small role in each. Also, at this point Tina Fey dressed up as Sarah Palin and Sarah Palin herself are indistinguishable to me.

- There's some email going around about how if you want to vote a straight Democratic ticket you have to first do that and then separately vote for Obama. This is not true (selecting a candidate cancels the straight ticket vote). But, don't vote a straight ticket because it's kinda dumb. In any event, be sure to check your vote at the final confirmation screen before casting it!


early voting starts today!
Mood: awake
Posted on 2008-10-20 09:55:00
Tags: politics
Words: 252

Early voting opens in Texas today and lasts until October 31. According to the paper, the busiest days are the first one and the last three, so avoid those if you can! The Austin American-Statesman's voting guide is here and here's a list of Travis County early voting locations. (pdf) For my Houston friends, here's a list of Harris County early voting locations. (pdf) For people in other places, Googling "(county name) county secretary of state" is usually a good place to start.

Why early vote? Well...

I do miss the camaraderie of everyone voting on the same day, but early voting is much more efficient and awesome.
(if you're wondering why to vote at all in Texas, see my previous post)


offered without comment
Mood: surprised
Posted on 2008-10-17 21:59:00
Tags: politics
Words: 129

From fivethirtyeight:

So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."

In this economy, racism is officially a luxury. How is John McCain going to win if he can't win those voters? John Murtha's "racist" western Pennsylvania district, where this story takes place, is some of the roughest turf in the nation. But Barack Obama is on the ground and making inroads due to unusually strong organizing leadership.


Dear "the media":
Mood: irritated
Posted on 2008-10-16 16:27:00
Tags: politics
Words: 82

When I first met Joe the Plumber, I was interested. When John McCain mentioned him 20 times (and Obama a few) at last night's debate, I was bored. Now that I learn more about him (he's not actually a plumber!) I can't begin to describe how much I don't care about this guy.

It was amusing at first but it's already old. If I have to sit through two more weeks of this I'm going to become a plumber myself. Please stop.


last debate
Mood: calm
Posted on 2008-10-16 09:31:00
Tags: politics
Words: 132

Well, that was actually a pretty good debate. I thought McCain did better than the other two, but the snap polls show Obama winning by a wide margin. (58-31, 53-22, etc.)

I almost posted the video of Obama talking to "Joe the Plumber" yesterday since it shows Obama having an intelligent discussion for like 4 minutes about tax policy. After McCain mentioned him like 20 times last night, he's famous! Here it is:
A video of McCain's angryish reactions.

Obama had a good response to the Ayers question, which he had obviously planned since he basically dared McCain to bring it up. Nate at fivethirtyeight.com thought McCain was doing well up to that point but pushed too hard on the cheap sleazy stuff. But he was behind and had to try something...


what's a good subject for the same old collection of politics links?
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-10-15 12:08:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 127

This account of Republican-leaning voters is pretty amazing:

The next was a woman, late 50s, Democrat but strongly pro-life. Loved B. and H. Clinton, loved Bush in 2000. "Well, I don't know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I'm sick of paying for health insurance at work and that's why I'm supporting Barack."
She thinks he's a terrorist! And still voting for him over McCain!

Just in: White House attempted to influence congressional elections in 2006 by traveling to campaign events with taxpayer dollars. Somehow I'm not surprised.

A CNN account of a guy doing The Great Schlep. Obviously anecdotal but still kinda neat.

Counterinsurgency tactics: running a laundromat in Northern Ireland back in the day. Pretty clever/awesome!


gay marriage ban _ahead_ in CA
Mood: sad
Posted on 2008-10-14 14:39:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 46

Bad news - Proposition 8 (banning gay marriage in California) is now apparently ahead. This would be a huge step backward if it passes in November. I just gave some money to fight it - I hadn't done so before because it was losing by a lot! Blah.

1 comment

finally, FINALLY, McCain scales back the ugliness
Mood: relieved
Posted on 2008-10-11 10:48:00
Tags: politics
Words: 60

See here - he corrected some of his reporters at a rally. Video here along with an analysis that seems a little unfair. I don't care why he's doing it, but the tone of his and Palin's rallies over the last week has gotten a bit frightening and dangerous.

(also, I didn't post about politics yesterday! Anyone else proud of me? :-) )


two quick politics articles
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-10-09 15:44:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 148

Work = good. Throat = about the same as yesterday = meh.

The Obama Surge: Will it Last? - good short article that highlights the fact that Americans might be ready for the real change in health care Obama is proposing.

Rage in the Town of Bethlehem - more ugliness at McCain rallies. Includes this bit:

Even the opening prayer was politically charged. "O God, we are in a battle that is raging for the soul of this nation," the preacher said. "You, O God, have raised up Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin for such a time as this." The preacher went on: "Help them, O God, to strengthen our economy, to keep our taxes and spending low . . . and grant them the privilege of being elected the next president and vice president."
I guess God is for lower taxes and spending. Who woulda thunk it? (actually, this makes me kinda mad)


nope, incoming boring debate
Mood: okay
Posted on 2008-10-08 09:41:00
Tags: politics
Words: 241

Nevermind - that debate was pretty boring. No Rezko or Ayers or Keating 5, just a lot of similar stuff from the first debate.

Things I'd like to see Obama stop saying:
If you enjoy horrible things, you'll enjoy this boy band pitching Microsoft PDC (developer's conference). Who creates this crap?


incoming nasty debate?
Mood: sick
Posted on 2008-10-07 10:33:00
Tags: politics
Words: 212

Obama is now at 88.5% to win. His national polling numbers (which, yes, don't really matter but are a good summary of the race) are way way way better than Gore's or Kerry's. (or Bush's this close to the election) At least Gallup's national tracking poll seems to have stabilized.

So, things are getting ugly. Palin is attacking, and the results are not pretty:

Worse, Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her "less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media." At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."
You can't blame the candidates for who supports them, but it sure sounds like she's almost inciting the crowd. At a McCain speech, he asked "Who is the real Barack Obama?" and the first shouted answer was "Terrorist!".

McCain has little to lose at this point, so he may go all-out nasty at the debate tonight...


folks, this could actually happen!
Mood: giddy
Music: happy happy happy music
Posted on 2008-10-06 12:37:00
Tags: politics
Words: 94

My go-to source fivethirtyeight.com has Obama at 87.4% to win. (and some more good polls came out today, +13 and +10 for Obama in Virginia) McCain is planning an all-out negative offensive, talking about Ayers and other things from Obama's past. Why it probably won't work (look at that graph of favorability!) and why it won't work.

Excited about the debate tomorrow night - I can't tell you what a joy it is to have a candidate to really cheer for as opposed to one I merely like better than the alternative! (see Kerry, John)


vp debate wrap
Mood: blah
Posted on 2008-10-03 09:46:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 199

Actually getting a little tired of national politics(!) - here's my quick debate summary:
You can check out my twitters during the debate (that was kinda fun but I'm not sure I'll do it again). Palin did well enough - there were a few awkward silences but certainly nothing like the cringe-worthy Couric interviews. (and she got the wrong name for the commander of our forces in Afghanistan) Biden started out very stiff and unanimated, but by the end he was doing much better - got his shots in at McCain and showed he has a command of the issues.

Most insta-polls show people thought Biden won. Probably the important thing is that Palin didn't falter or hurt herself/McCain. My guess is she'll avoid giving interviews until the election.
Also, McCain pulled out of Michigan yesterday (yay!) and there's a new poll showing him up by one in Minnesota. (boo!)

In its stead: local politics! Lots of local businesses are for Proposition 2, which would Stop Domain Subsidies. The other side is somewhat amusingly named Keep Austin's Word. I'm leaning towards voting yes on Prop 2 but I'm gonna read about it some more first.

Austin's commuter rail starts March 30 - yay!


running out of semi-clever politics titles
Mood: good
Posted on 2008-10-02 09:55:00
Tags: politics
Words: 115

The long-awaited clip where Palin can't name any other Supreme Court decision (other than Roe v. Wade) that she disagrees with:

I'm hesitant that tonight's debate will provide any more such moments (since there will be not a lot of time devoted to each answer), but I guess we'll see!

The Senate passed a bailout plan last night with a bunch of extra crap in it. I guess I think it should pass...we've got to do something? (credit markets are freezing up, as I understand it) Still pretty unsure on the economics of it all. A look at how the credit crunch got started a few weeks ago.

Also, I really like this Michigan shirt :-)

1 comment

mildly interesting politics quiz
Posted on 2008-10-01 14:50:00
Tags: quiz politics
Words: 43

You are a

Social Liberal
(80% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(33% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat

Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also : The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Anyone wanna duel me in a fight-to-the-death cage match?


Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-10-01 11:53:00
Tags: politics
Words: 183

Busy today; some quick videos and such...

Palin can't name a newspaper she reads:

This is just weird - maybe she was just caught off-guard or something? But Couric's technique of asking an easy question, getting a reasonable response, and then following up seems to lead to bad results for Palin.

Palin gets interviewed with McCain:

"gotcha journalism" means asking questions, it seems.

Can't find a video for this one, but here's a transcript:

COURIC: Palin says she makes no apologies for her pro-life views and opposes abortion, even in the case of rape or incest.

Gov. PALIN: I'm saying that personally I would counsel that person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here should anybody end up in jail for having had an abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing that I would ever support.
Guh? "Opposing" abortion is a bit different than outlawing it, which, unless I've gone crazy here, is the general pro-life position. So...confusing.

Some ridiculously good polls for Obama - the win-o-meter is up to 85.4%!


TX voter registration deadline is monday!
Mood: hungry
Posted on 2008-09-30 12:02:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 310

Barack Obama wanted me to remind y'all that the voter registration deadline for Texas is this Monday, October 6. You can register and find more information at voteforchange.com.

"But Greg," I hear you say, "why even bother? It's not like my vote matters here in the Lone Star State!" Good point, hypothetical friend, but here's why you should anyway:

Been reloading fivethirtyeight.com a lot recently - seeing that 83% chance for Obama to win makes my heart sing!

Why is America so religious? - very strong negative correlation between country wealth and importance of religion to that country. We are the great big outlier.

Michael Lewis rents a mansion and ponders why having a big house is so important to people. As someone who recently purchased a bigish house (bigger than the other ones we were looking at, anyway), I found it interesting.


Congratulations John McCain!
Mood: amused
Posted on 2008-09-26 11:34:00
Tags: politics
Words: 10

My sincere congratulations to John McCain for winning tonight's debate.


debate on
Mood: determined
Posted on 2008-09-26 10:58:00
Tags: politics
Words: 126

CNN reports McCain will be there tonight, so that's good. (apparently if only Obama were there, it would count as a contribution to the Obama campaign so I guess they wouldn't air it or something?)

Washington Mutual basically failed last night, with JPMorgan Chase taking over most of it and the government taking the rest. All deposits are safe (they're FDIC-insured up to $100,000, but it was taken over so even above that they're fine). Slate argues this is the way it should work and it doesn't show the need for a giant bailout. But it'll happen anyway, and if it helps stabilize things, whatever. I'll get out my checkbook...

Also, we're not headed for a depression. So, that's nice.

David Letterman - still mad at McCain.

1 comment

debate? no debate?
Mood: tired
Posted on 2008-09-25 09:55:00
Tags: politics
Words: 326

Wow, what a crazy election cycle!

Yesterday McCain said he would suspend his campaign until a bailout package is passed. He also wants to postpone the first debate which is scheduled for tomorrow. Obama says the debate should go on and it's more important than ever for people to decide who will be leading the country in 40 or so days.

Just like the Palin announcement, this scared me for a bit just because it was pretty unexpected. But this isn't like suspending campaign events for a hurricane or something - this is a man-made disaster that a President would have to handle, even if there were other things going on at the same time. Looks like people aren't thrilled with the idea either. (David Letterman is not impressed) fivethirtyeight.com's Nate Silver thinks it won't work (I remember the Iran-Contra scandals preempting Square One as a kid! I was so mad...)

I don't know what this means for tomorrow's debate - it looks like Democrats have agreed in theory to the $700 billion bailout (with some oversight and executive pay limits) but I doubt they'd be able to pass anything by tomorrow. Maybe Obama will get 90 minutes all to himself? That would be awesome!

McCain then proposed that the first Presidential debate be held in the slot for the VP debate which sure seems like there would be no VP debate then. Wonder if he's worried about Palin's performance...

Kind of a mini-scandal: McCain's campaign manager still a lobbyist despite earlier statements to the contrary.

Yeah, I want this mug. Genius!

Anyway, sorry for the heavy politics lately - it accurately reflects what's on my mind and what I've been reading about. It'll all be over in 40ish days barring something crazy like 2000. I sure hope that doesn't happen... (there's a not unlikely scenario of a 269-269 tie that would throw the election to the House of Representatives...then things get really complicated but Obama would probably win)


seriously, guys, $700 billion is a lot of money
Mood: unsure
Posted on 2008-09-24 10:25:00
Tags: politics
Words: 209

This whole bailout thing seems kinda shady. Stanton doesn't think it will work. Kos doesn't like it, neither does Atrios. The plan lacks oversight:

Section 8. Review: Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

It sounds like they're really really really trying to push this through this week, which is like what was done with the PATRIOT Act and should ring alarm bells.

Also, $700 billion is a lot of money, enough for 410 space shuttles, etc. (just multiply by 1.09!) It's $2300 per person. I understand things are bad, but something about giving away $2300 of my money to save Wall Street from their risky decisions makes me want to throw something. From an interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT):
For years now, they’ve told us that we can’t afford—that the government providing healthcare to all people is just unimaginable; it can’t be done. We don’t have the money to rebuild our infrastructure. We don’t have the money to wipe out poverty. We can’t do it. But all of a sudden, yeah, we do have $700 billion for a bailout of Wall Street.


Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-09-22 13:41:00
Tags: 23andme genetics politics links
Words: 146

Busy today - links!

- Rock Band 2 is out for XBox 360 (PS3 version coming soonish) - it looks good (here's the new track list, all downloaded songs are automatically transferred and you can transfer almost all of the Rock Band 1 songs for a one-time $5)

- Really leaning towards getting my genes genotyped by 23andMe.

- Banning gay marriage in California is now losing 55-38. Yaaaay!

- short Bruce Schneier column - if liquids are so dangerous to take on planes, why aren't people arrested for trying to take them on (like guns)? The answer: because they aren't dangerous...there shouldn't be a class of stuff that you can't take on a plane but you don't get in trouble for.

- fairtax.org has what seems to be a pretty reasonable tax proposal.

- wonderjess posted this dialogue between Obama and Jed Bartlett - written by Aaron Sorkin! Oh this makes me miss West Wing...


see? no reason to panic
Mood: excited
Posted on 2008-09-19 22:45:00
Tags: politics
Words: 8

Obama now 71.5% to win according to fivethirtyeight.com.

1 comment

interesting things
Mood: bouncy
Posted on 2008-09-17 15:06:00
Tags: video games football politics links
Words: 330

I have a list of tabs open in Firefox mentally filed under "to post about" but I'm only really interested in about half of them - this half!

- GM reveals Chevy Volt design
The Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid car that scheduled to be released in 2010/2011. This is a car I could see buying (hopefully I won't need a new car by then!) - it goes 40 miles solely on charge alone, and after that there is a gasoline motor but it's just used to charge the electric battery, not for propelling the wheels (like the Prius does). Downsides - it's going to be expensive ($40Kish?) and only hold four people. Apparently the battery pack takes up room where the middle back seat would be. I've been keeping my eye on this - it would be nice for an America car company to take the lead in green technology for once, and plug-in hybrids are cool!

- Familiar Ground May Be Election's Deciding Factor
Right now, it looks like Obama's easiest path to victory is Kerry states + Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado, which is very doable. fivethirtyeight.com's numbers are favoring McCain now but I'm confident they'll swing back the other direction.

- Federal bank insurance fund dwindling
I don't claim to understand what the hell is going on, but our financial system seems to be going to hell and it's kinda scary. The subprime crisis has the classic hallmarks of a Black Swan in that apparently few thought it was possible, and the amount of money that's been lost is pretty staggering. If there's one thing I learned from "The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, it's that things are more uncertain in Extremistan than we think...

In NCAA 09 news, the U of H Cougars lost to Florida in the Fiesta Bowl 14-6 (sooo close to tying it up at the end...) but finished the season #10 in the nation, and had a good recruiting season. We're about to start season #2!

1 comment

the usual
Mood: blah
Posted on 2008-09-15 10:40:00
Tags: music politics links
Words: 165

Clinton and Palin on SNL:

Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes - one of the things I'm most looking forward to the end of is cronyism - hiring friends for the job rather than the most qualified person. It looks like Palin wouldn't be the end of that at all.

Picked up a few new albums yesterday (I looooove me some amazonmp3.com!) - "Appetite for Destruction" by Guns N' Roses and "Speak for Yourself" by Imogen Heap. I didn't know that Guns N's Roses first album had both "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Sweet Child O' Mine" on it! Interestingly:

According to Rose, the inspiration for the lyrics came from an encounter he and a friend had with a man while they were sleeping in a school yard in Queens. When they were approached by the "little black man", he yelled at them, "You know where you are? You're in the jungle baby; you're gonna die!" This incident inspired the main lyrical declaration for the song.


shorter McCain speech
Mood: calm
Music: old LOST podcasts
Posted on 2008-09-05 14:56:00
Tags: politics
Words: 3

(yay Tom Toles!)


I would like to marry The Daily Show
Mood: amused
Posted on 2008-09-04 10:24:00
Tags: video politics
Words: 4

(with thanks to omega697)


back from beach, more Palin
Mood: chipper
Posted on 2008-09-02 10:21:00
Tags: travel politics
Words: 176

Port Aransas was fun. I got sunburned but they're mostly gone by now. Better recap will follow at some point in time. But, for now...

I'm feeling a lot better regarding Palin than I did on Friday. Turns out she's more conservative than I thought especially on abortion and sex education - she supports abstinence-only education, which will prompt an angry rant sometime this week.

And it turns out her 17 year old daughter is 5 months pregnant and will marry the father. I don't think her daughter is fair game, but it gives a slight "hypocrisy" angle to the abstinence-only education which is enough to give the story legs. As Atrios says, "Policy matters".

And she hired an attorney today in that trooper scandalish thing. And...well, here's a list. (was a member of a fringe group wanting a vote on Alaskan secession, did actually support the "bridge to nowhere")

Anyway, announcing the pick on Friday seemed like a good idea at the time but now it seems like these stories are gonna overshadow the Republican convention.


Obama's speech, McCain picks Sarah Palin
Mood: curious
Music: Obama speech
Posted on 2008-08-29 09:57:00
Tags: politics
Words: 208

Obama's speech was pretty amazing last night - here's part 1 and part 2. A lot of people thought it was going to be very high-falutin' rhetoric but he talked about a lot of concrete things mixed in there. Even Pat Buchanan loved it! Edit: better link to Obama speech

McCain just announced he picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as VP. She's young and pretty which has me a little worried, but she's very inexperienced (elected as governor in 2006) and apparently has a scandal about firing a state trooper (although her wikipedia page notes her as leading some anti-corruption efforts). Plus, she's a woman, which means McCain can legitimately claim to be running an "historic campaign". So I dunno. kos thinks it was a choice made in desperation. I reeeeeally wish it had been Romney :-) Edit: more information about Palin's scandal

On a more personal note, I've been pretty crabby this week for no particular reason I can think of. I don't like being that way, so I'm gonna put more effort into being upbeat and cheerful and all that. My apologies to those who had to put up with me (mostly djedi and quijax).

I'll be out of town this weekend - everyone have a nice Labor Day!


prickly McCain interview
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-08-28 14:29:00
Tags: politics
Words: 4

What a weird interview...


pretty contentless
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2008-08-22 13:34:00
Tags: referrer computer politics links
Words: 216

I got another link to my runs per inning calculator. Yay!

There's this new IM/email/social networking app called Digsby. It's pretty awesome - I can do Google Talk, AIM, and Facebook chat through it, as well as twitter, regular Facebook stuff and it checks my Gmail too! And it's written mostly in Python and there will be Mac/Linux clients soon. If you're gonna give it a try use this installer - apparently it fixes some memory problems. (hmm, it just crashed...but that's the first time that's happened)

Obama should announce his VP soon! Speaking of which, FiveThirtyEight.com shows he and McCain essentially tied. If Obama loses I'm am going to be quite distraught. On the other hand, politics is always entertaining: yesterday McCain couldn't say how many houses he owns and Obama hits back with an ad. Some scummy right-wing group trying to swiftboat Obama made an ad that even Fox wouldn't air!

A New York Times article about The Daily Show points out that it is actually a pretty substantive source for news, covering long-running scandals like prewar intelligence in a way most places don't. Also, this comment about how the staff finds footage to air from a former Daily Show employee is pretty interesting.

Here's a panoramic view from the high diving board of the Olympics.


random stuff friday!
Mood: determined
Posted on 2008-08-08 10:01:00
Tags: asmc politics links
Words: 164

Back to the summer musical grind tonight. It should be fun though - only one show and then the silent auction and a cash bar! Wooo!

random stuff:
- What I Learned Buying a Rug in Turkey - a narrative of good salesmanship. By the end I want a rug, too!
- The Tire-Gauge Dust-Up - contains this gem from Obama: "It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant."
- Women would rather carpool with Obama: because that matters for the leader of the free world. I'm glad Obama's winning that question (and the coveted "Who would you rather vacation with?"), but come on people!
- Nasty Democratic primary ends - I think "Jew-baiting" is a little strong for the ad that was aired, but it was nasty, and she lost.

Ever had that experience where, months or years after the fact, you discover there were crazy things going on you never expected behind the scenes that would have totally changed how you acted or felt? That always weirds me out.


Mood: blah
Posted on 2008-07-23 16:39:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 84

McCain says Obama would "rather lose the war in order to win a political campaign".

Now, look. I understand if McCain thinks Obama is going about the war the wrong way, or if withdrawing our troops on a timetable (which 60% of Americans want to do, including Obama and al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq) is bad, etc. But saying he's trying to lose a war to score political points is pretty offensive.

Also, cause and effect relationships undermine American troops. Take that, causality!


new poll on gay marriage
Mood: hopeful
Music: Bear McCreary - "Battlestar Operatica"
Posted on 2008-07-17 17:13:00
Tags: gay politics
Words: 62

The results of a new gay marriage poll - although Americans oppose it 55%-36%, they also oppose a law in their state banning gay marriage by 49%-45%. And when the civil union option is added, 32% say marriage, 33% say civil unions, and only 29% say no recognition. Also, amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage is opposed 56%-38%. This is good news!


Mood: bouncy
Music: Death Cabie for Cutie - "Long Division"
Posted on 2008-07-16 15:22:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 105

Lots of links for no reason!

- Sean Tevis is running for Kansas State Representative, xkcd style. Help him out! (I'm #384 or so to give)
- Rock Band 2 tracklist - you can also use songs you've downloaded and "most" of the ones off the first Rock Band.
- President Bush: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter". Kind of a jerky way to end a meeting.
- Super rich tax cheats outed by Liechtensteiner bank clerk
- Division Emerges Among Foes of California Same-Sex Marriages - if Prop 8 passes I will be extremely sad and angry.
- John McCain is against gay adoption. Sort of.
- Your guide to the Wall-E controversy.


not the ideal situation for starting 3 solid weeks of rehearsals
Mood: tired
Music: Nas - "Black President"
Posted on 2008-07-09 13:33:00
Tags: asmc worldofwarcraft programming politics links sleep
Words: 260

I've been unable to get to sleep the last two nights. Last night was particularly bad so eventually I got up and programmed some and played a little WoW. (won a close AB battleground on my 46 pally) Even then after returning to bed it took me a while to sleep. I had no sodas yesterday, which is the most common cause of insomnia for me. Hopefully it just kinda disappears. The alternative is that I get so tired that falling asleep is no problem, but I'd kinda like to avoid that :-)

White House, 2005: Setting the Record Straight: Democrats On An Artificial Timetable In Iraq

The President Explains Why Timetables For Withdrawal Are Bad Strategy. PRES. BUSH: "Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies - that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder - and invite new attacks on America." (President Bush, Remarks On The War On Terror, Annapolis, MD, 11/30/05)

Iraq, yesterday: Iraq Wants Withdrawal Timetable In U.S. Pact
Iraq's national security adviser said Tuesday that his government would not sign an agreement governing the future role of U.S. troops in Iraq unless it includes a timetable for their withdrawal.

Unrelatedly: you can't protect your HTML source and it's a waste of time to try.


nothing much
Posted on 2008-07-03 20:28:00
Tags: movies politics links
Words: 68

Wow, I can't remember the last time I posted on a weekend. (ooh, maybe my LJBackup stats page should have a day of the week analysis!)

Obama's been taking a bit of flak for saying he'll vote on the FISA bill - here's his well-written response. (some analysis)

I'm really excited about The Dark Knight, mostly because I loved Batman Begins. We saw Wanted today - it was pretty good.


Just so we're clear
Mood: distracted
Posted on 2008-06-27 16:21:00
Tags: politics
Words: 38

John McCain wants to repeal gay marriage in California.

Also, the Federal Marriage Amendment was introduced again. Hilariously, the group of people who "want to defend the sanctity of marriage" or whatever includes Larry Craig and David Vitter!


Big Bad John
Mood: amused
Music: "Biig Jooohn"
Posted on 2008-06-19 13:46:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 64

I'm no fan of John Cornyn (although I do like his government transparency efforts - even cosponsored a bill with Obama!), but this ad of his is being unfairly maligned. Isn't this like the best ad for a Texan ever? Now I'm going to be humming "Biig Jooohn.....Biig Joooooo-oohn" all day!

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: The Abridged Script (via kottke)


fight the smears!
Mood: impressed
Posted on 2008-06-12 17:23:00
Tags: activism politics
Words: 95

Obama's new site fightthesmears.com is a good list of rebuttals of the emails that have been going around about him. If you get those forwards, reply with a link to it!

Another impressive aspect of Obama's campaign is the new matching gifts thing. When I donated last week, apparently my money (since I had donated before) was used as a matching gift to a first-time donor, and I even got an email from the people whose gift I matched. They live in Oregon. Pretty easy way to make my gift feel like it means something.


habeas corpus is alive and well, barely
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2008-06-12 16:37:00
Tags: essay politics
Words: 289

Today the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of habeas corpus for detainees/enemy combatants, which means that people held at Guantanamo have the right to challenge their detention in a civilian court (as opposed to a military tribunal where defendants can't have a lawyer or see all of the evidence against them). This, to me, seems like a huge step towards rolling back all the Orwellian things that have taken place in the US recently. Here are some excerpts from the decision.

The 5-4ness of the decision is a little more frightening - unsurprisingly Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito were the dissenters. And, from the article:

Three of the five Justices in the majority -- John Paul Stevens (age 88), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 75) and David Souter (age 68) -- are widely expected by court observers to retire or otherwise leave the Court in the first term of the next President. By contrast, the four judges who dissented -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Sam Alito -- are expected to stay right where they are for many years to come.

John McCain has identified Roberts and Alito as ideal justices of the type he would nominate, while Barack Obama has identified Stephen Breyer, David Souter and Ginsberg (all in the majority today). It's not hyperbole to say that, from Supreme Court appointments alone, our core constitutional protections could easily depend upon the outcome of the 2008 election.

Just a reminder that who we elect in November can make a huge difference to the future of our country.

Unrelatedly, happy Loving Day! (thanks for the reminder, amorphousplasma!) Someone pointed out that were it not for this decision, Barack Obama's parent's marriage (is that correct apostrophication?) would have been illegal in 16 states.


speeches last night
Posted on 2008-06-04 10:04:00
Tags: politics
Words: 49

McCain's (it is boring) - wow, he sounds really insincere when he says "that's not change we can believe in". Ugh. Reviews are very very bad...
Clinton's (haven't watched yet)
Obama's (haven't watched yet)
A good contrast of policy differences between Obama and McCain. (although the image itself is muddy)


people like talking to people they don't like
Mood: awake
Posted on 2008-06-02 13:04:00
Tags: math projects politics
Words: 165

According to a new Gallup poll, 67% of Americans believe the president should meet with the leaders of enemy countries, and 59% of Americans believe the president should meet with the president of Iran. (I guess that means 8% of Americans don't think Iran is an enemy?) That seems like a pretty firm rebuttal of McCain's attacks on Obama for wanting to do just that.

The Target probability page is really filling out now. I think I'm going to give up on justifying the counts for a mixed straight (a 4 card straight including cards of all 4 suits) which seems really really tough to count, and maybe the 3 card and 4 card straight flush of any suit (which are only really tough to count, but still more than I'm up for). After I calculate the numbers I'll do a graph and try to figure out what the dividing line is of which targets are worth which points, and see if any are "misclassified".


gay marriage in california!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2008-05-15 12:21:00
Tags: politics
Words: 7

California Supreme Court Overturns Gay Marriage Ban


Travis County Democratic Convention
Mood: refreshed
Posted on 2008-03-30 11:41:00
Tags: essay politics
Words: 892

At our precinct convention, I signed up to be an Obama delegate at the county convention, which took place on Saturday.

Our precinct group had a strategy meeting on Thursday that I was unable to attend. Since we were ahead 36-17 in delegates and our precinct sent 4 delegates to the state convention, we selected among ourselves who we wanted to go and then allocated our votes to make sure we got 3 delegates (3 people got 10 votes, and the leftovers voted for alternates). The math is kinda interesting - I'm sure there's a formula/procedure to determine the optimal strategy.

Anyway, I had gotten calls before to make sure I'd be attending, and an organizer even stopped by the house so I could sign a form designating an alternate in case something happened and I couldn't make it. And after I woke up bright and early at 7:30 I got a call making sure I was on my way :-)

Stopped to get breakfast and pick up wildrice13, who was also an Obama delegate (in a different precinct) and headed down to the Travis County Expo Center which turned out to be not particularly close to here (it's near the airport). At around 9:00 we turned on to Decker Lane and quickly got in a very long line of cars.

Twenty minutes go by and we haven't moved a whole lot, and we can't even see the Expo Center (it's a hilly road), but some cars are parking in an elementary school parking lot and walking, which seems like a good idea so we follow suit. The walk wasn't too bad, maybe .75 of a mile.

When we finally arrive at the hall there are two really long lines and lots of people with signs with precinct numbers. We find our right line (it's 9:30 by this point) and wait. And wait. And wait. The line is moving really slowly and someone in front of us says it's a gigantic mess at the front, which is pretty easy to believe. Someone comes by to assure us that even though sign in ends at 10, they're extending it to count us all, which is good.

Make it to the front after an hour and there are different windows for different groups of precincts but there's little space to form lines so it is all in fact a mess. wildrice13 finds his window and I find mine and we eventually get in.

The place is packed and I find my seat. They're just getting started, luckily, so they do the pledge of allegiance and national anthem and it opens with Lloyd Doggett talking about unity (a major theme of the day), that no matter who our nominee is we need to support him/her over McCain. Shortly after that, the convention chair told us that the speeches were basically killing time for the credentials committee to process all the challenges to delegates, and that after that was done we could do the voting for the state delegates.

Lots of other people spoke throughout the day - Larry Joe Doherty (candidate for the 10th congressional district) pointed out that more people voted in the Democratic primary in district 10 than did for Michael McCaul (current representative) in 2004, which is pretty neat. And although everyone talked about unity, the ones who had endorsed (mostly for Obama) would say "Now, while I do support Obama" followed by lots of loud cheering by the Obama people, then a call for unity followed by more muted cheering by everyone. Sometimes they'd talk about George W. Bush or less commonly Tom Craddick and Tom DeLay. Then we got to boo!

During the speeches, I paid attention some, read some, chatted some with people around me, got food from the concessions stand. (overpriced, of course) Eventually Terry McAuliffe (!) came out to speak for Hillary and Ron Kirk spoke for Obama. That was neat.

Finally the credentials committee and rules committee reported for both districts (most challenges of delegates were rejected, with the notable exception of a Republican precinct chair!) and then people had to vote for district officers. In the other district (25) only one person ran for chairman and secretary, but in ours we had 4 run for chairman and around 6 for secretary. I was worried we would have to all vote somehow, but the guy was clever. For chairman we voted by voice vote and it was clear who the winner was. For secretary two candidates got about the same, but the chairman made a motion to make them co-secretaries. Genius!

Shortly thereafter, we voted. As planned, we voted 10-10-10-6-1 ish. The Clinton people voted 9-8 so they only got one alternate; if they had voted 9-5-3-1 or something they could have had two, I think. There was more business after that (resolutions and stuff) but wildrice13 and I left since it was already 4:30. The people who stayed said the convention was adjourned at 11:15, so I'm really glad we didn't stay until the end!

I have some pictures up, as does one of the other delegates. Burnt Orange Report shows Obama up by 11% or so throughout Texas, and Travis County went for Obama 383-184. Here's the CNN story.

Then I drove to San Antonio and got back at 12:30. Then I hottubbed. It was a long day.


positive surprises
Mood: happy (somewhat forced)
Posted on 2008-03-19 13:52:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 262

The cable guy said that in houses, you can't do internet and cable off of the same jack like you can in apartments. Indeed, when I tried the internet got slow and flaky.

We have a cable jack on the other side of the room, though, so I was looking at some sort of wireless box like this, but I wasn't sure if it would work with the cablecards or not.

After they didn't have any such products at Fry's, I went to Radio Shack and asked a guy if they had anything. Luckily another guy was working there who was pretty knowledgeable (surprise!) and didn't think it would work but suggested some other things that ended up not working, then said the easiest thing to do would have them just put in another cable jack. This seemed problematic since there's a room above our living room.

But, I saw they had a cable signal booster, so I figured it was worth a shot. Put it in front of the splitter and then the internet went back to working as normal (surprise!). Last night I hooked up the TiVo and the cable cards worked without any fuss. (surprise x 3!)

Cool things:
- If you liked Portal and World of Goo, you will almost certainly like Crayon Physics Deluxe which looks pretty awesome.

- Video and text of Obama's speech on race and his pastor yesterday. It was impressive. (The Onion's take on Obama's campaign)

- The Google Chart API now lets you make maps which is awesome.

- Solving Algebraic Equations Using Regular Expressions - yes!


merrily I roll along
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-03-11 10:00:00
Tags: smashbros wii politics
Words: 229

Ah, smash brothers. Last night I beat the 100-man melee after around an hour of frustration (at 4-5 minutes an attempt). I used Meta Knight for his combination of puffiness (to avoid cheap deaths) and a sword. My failures were almost all the same way - once I was down to the last 20 or so, they would always come 5 at a time and be very aggressive, and by that point I'd have a lot of damage and so when I got hit I'd fly off the platform. And then I'd try to get back on and it would be almost impossible with five targets to avoid. For my winning attempt I was much more aggressive about stopping them from grouping up, and it worked! Next up: 15 minute melee! (ugh)

I realized yesterday I was trying to convince myself independently that a) it wasn't that far from our apartment to the house (so people coming to game nights won't be horribly inconvenienced) b) it was a long way from work to the house (so that we're moving closer to work). Since work is between apartment and house, these are incompatible!

Bush vetoes bill banning waterboarding - I know it's been a little hard to follow, and I've kinda stopped paying attention, but the official policy of the US and our president is to allow torture. This is very sad.


fridays - meh
Mood: okay
Music: U2 - "Where The Streets Have No Name"
Posted on 2008-03-07 13:26:00
Tags: projects politics links
Words: 181

For some reason Fridays haven't been very exciting to me lately. I am excited about the weekend though (smash bros!). I'll feel better when house crap is taken care of (Time Warner is supposedly coming out this afternoon so hopefully we'll have internet there at least...).

Nixon's plan to end Vietnam was to make the Russians think he was crazy enough to bomb them. That is rather frightening.

Map of Starbucks and Walmarts per capita. Vermont has the lowest combined total by far.

Why is it taking so long to total TX caucus results? (short answer: they're being sent in by mail!) Right now Obama's ahead 56-44 with 41% reporting, so it looks like Obama will end up with more total delegates from TX.

Has anyone used Processing? Not that I need another project, but you can do some neat stuff with it (examples) and there are a number of books about it. Maybe I'll check one out next time I'm at a bookstore.

This is an excellent example of being so close to a good approach but just missing it!

1 comment

why yes, I am a little depressed
Mood: sad
Music: Arcade Fire - "Black Mirror" (IMH)
Posted on 2008-03-05 09:50:00
Tags: politics
Words: 1235

I've been trying to characterize this, and here's my best shot: I don't handle disappointment well for things I'm rooting for. I remember watching The Comeback as a kid and being in tears afterwards. I was crushed when Dean lost the primary in 2004, and again when Kerry lost to Bush. So, with that ominous forward:

We showed up at our polling place at 6:40, and there were already around 30 people waiting in the middle school cafeteria, so we found a seat and read and talked and whatnot. The number of people kept growing until the election judge announced that we would start at 7:15 (i.e. there were no people still waiting to vote). At that point, there were more like 100 people inside, and they were going to call us by table to sign in for Clinton, Obama, or Undeclared (or somebody else...), but then decided to have everyone just get in a line. There were maybe 80 people in front of us and a lot behind us, and we couldn't see all the way out the door.

The line was moving slowly at first, but finally they had someone checking voter registration cards for people in the line, and then splitting up the Clinton and Obama tables for signing in. The Obama table was about twice as long, and they started calling for Clinton people to skip ahead since there were so few in our part of the line.

As we got up to the front, I saw a woman wearing an "Obama Precinct Captain" button, so I asked her if they had enough delegates already. She said that our precinct (238 in da house!) was allotted 53 delegates, and with 53 alternates that was a lot of people, so if I wanted to stick around I could probably be one. We both signed in and voted (being sure to mark the GLBT box - neat!) and hemmed and hawed about whether to stay or not. It was probably 8:10 or so by this point, and we were both tired (waiting in line was fairly boring) but I decided that I'd stick around for a little while and see how long it would take. (djedi graciously stayed with me although he wasn't as interested)

Luckily, the improved system meant that the line moved much faster even though it was a lot longer than we had seen. 15-20 minutes later, it was done and they began counting. I saw and heard from people around me that Obama had won Vermont and Clinton had won Rhode Island (no surprises there) and that Clinton was ahead in Ohio, but Texas was 50-48 Obama with many, many votes left to be counted.

Soon after that, the precinct convention began. The first order of business was to select a temporary chairman(chairperson?) for the meeting - the permanent precinct chairman was a oldish woman who was losing her voice, presumably from being at the polling place all day. A younger guy with a loud voice was nominated and he looked like an Obama plant - we were mostly grouped by who we supported and someone went around telling us to vote for him. I (and apparently djedi) thought this was a little chintzy and so we voted for the woman, and she won 34-31, but the guy wanted to "divide the house" (i.e. go to one side to vote for that person), so we lugged our stuff over to the Clinton-ish side and they counted again and lo and behold the guy won by one vote, 35-34. That was...interesting.

Anyway, then they chose a secretary and the oldish woman ran again but lost more convincingly this time to someone who was already taking notes (I was a little confused at this point). Then the guy said that they were still counting the sign-ins, and there was a mistake in counting so they had to start over, but in the meantime people talked about how things worked. The 53 delegates would be divided proportionally between the candidates, and then those groups would decide who the delegates and alternates were. After that, they would vote on the 38(!) resolutions that were before them.

A woman sitting next to us seemed very concerned that a delegate wasn't bound to vote for their candidate. She made some comment about how this felt like democracy in Iraq. I didn't feel like pointing out that even the electors in the Electoral College aren't bound to vote for anyone, and there are soo many delegates that it would have to be a fairly large conspiracy or something to change the results.

Finally they finished counting. There were 441 total voters in the caucus (that seems like a lot!) and 292 were for Obama, 149 for Clinton, which worked out to 36 delegates for Obama and 17 for Clinton. Then we split up to decide delegates. They had a list of people who could be delegates from Obama headquarters, but first they asked for a show of hands of those present who wanted to do it, and there were 31 of us. So, we all get to be delegates, and I waited in line to sign up. (they were short on people even with the list, so they started calling people who had indicated interest when they signed in) djedi looked through the resolutions and there were some interesting ones (55 mph speed limit, bringing troops home from Iraq, medicinal marijuana), but it was already 9:00 and it looked like this would take a while, so we left after I signed up. Hopefully I'm still a delegate; I assume I'll get an email or something :-)

When they called for volunteers they said multiple times that the county convention was all day on a Saturday and started at 7:30 AM, but looking at the information sign up starts at 7:30, the actual convention starts at 10:30. So yay for that!

Anyway, we got home and I saw Clinton was winning Ohio (and they called it for her shortly thereafter) and she started leading in Texas, and was up 50-48 when we went to bed with 55% or so reporting. I kept thinking Obama was going to come back since so few votes were counted in Harris County (Houston), but it turns out he only won there 56-43 which wasn't enough to make up the gap. The good news is that as of now, Clinton gained only 1 delegate, and that doesn't include some of the TX caucuses which seem to be going for Obama. Updated: Clinton wins more like 13 delegates.

I don't dislike Hillary, although I do have a few complaints with how she's run her campaign. But I decided in 2004 that, unless the techniques were pretty underhanded (voter suppression, etc.) that's not a good thing to consider when voting. Politics is nasty and ugly by design, that's just the way it is. I do have concerns about her electability in November, but that's so hard to judge anyway. The point is, I was still depressed last night and didn't sleep well, but that's way overreacting. (also, I think the rest of my immediate family is for Hillary...hi immediate family!)

So, to sum up: I think I'm a delegate, Hillary stays alive to fight another day, whoever wins on the D side will have a good plan for health care and good things will happen. Sunshine, lollipops, etc.


vote, etc.
Mood: amused
Posted on 2008-03-04 10:21:00
Tags: politics
Words: 45

vote vote vote caucus

This article from the Wall Street Journal has this delightful diagram of the Texas Two-Step:

Check out the ubiquitous cowboy hats, the cactus outside and the guy waiting outside with his horse. Classic!

This is fairly creepy (move your mouse around)


Vote and caucus tomorrow!
Mood: working
Music: Radiohead - "Karma Police"
Posted on 2008-03-03 11:25:00
Tags: homepage politics
Words: 170

Here's a bunch of information about what to do, and if you're going to caucus I'd recommend showing up early because early voting numbers are still way up. Edit: here's some more caucus information.

I'll be a little sad once Texas stops getting love from the candidates and the media, but I am getting a little tired of all the phone calls. (speaking of which, we got at least 8 from Texas for Hillary, including a few from Henry Cisneros and one from America Ferrera (from Ugly Betty), but only 1 for Obama, which was actually from moveon.org. Totally the opposite from cifarelli's experience...)

Thanks for everyone's feedback on the homepage redesign - here's the latest and probably last version for a while. I was going to do some sort of tag thing to filter out the entries (instead of using categories) but that's probably just going to clutter things up more, and I'm pretty happy with it now. (taking away the underlining of links makes it look so much cleaner!)


I won't mess up your game, dear reader
Mood: not bad, really
Posted on 2008-02-26 14:29:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 38

Early voting in Texas is way, way, waaaay up, especially on the Democratic side.

Barack Obama apologizes for "messing up your game".

Interview with Summer Glau aka River Tam aka that Terminator robot in the Sarah Connor Chronicles.


searchable government spending!
Mood: impressed
Posted on 2008-02-22 15:40:00
Tags: projects politics
Words: 47

One of the things Obama mentioned last night was the bill he and Tom Coburn passed to provide a "Google for government", a searchable database of government spending. Well, it exists! Check out usaspending.gov - and it even has an API! I bet there's a project in this...


TX voting information
Mood: excited
Posted on 2008-02-22 13:25:00
Tags: politics
Words: 179

So, early voting is going on already for the Texas primaries. Here's a PDF voting guide from the League of Women Voters of Texas, a nonpartisan group. These are endorsements from the Austin Chronicle and from the Stonewall Democrats. (if someone has a concise link to Austin American-Statesman endorsements, I'd be much obliged) Here are the early voting locations in Travis County - we're gonna vote at Highland Mall tonight.

Now, the tricky part is that Texas has both a primary (which determines 126 delegates) and a caucus (which determines 67 delegates). Yes, this is crazy. There's more information here but the gist of it is, there will be a caucus at your polling location (find your polling location here) at 7:15 on March 4. It's not like the Iowa caucuses as I understand - you just have to show up and vote again. Here's some more information about the caucus. So be sure to show up and then you get to vote twice! (if someone could explain to me why we have this crazy system I'd be happy to learn)

1 comment

obama v. clinton
Mood: frustrated
Posted on 2008-02-22 09:53:00
Tags: politics
Words: 1943

The debate last night was pretty good. (here's a transcript) Overall, they both did well, although I might give a slight edge to Clinton - she seemed a little more comfortable. The format was nice - just asking questions, no rules on time limits or anything like that. I guess that's the freedom when there are only two people.

Opening statements: This was boring. I did learn that Texas and Austin are AWESOME and suck it other states, especially Super Tuesday ones!!! How do you like us now? Anyway, Obama's was kind of a downer which surprised me a little - he talked about how the economy sucks, etc.

Cuba: They mostly agreed (a recurring theme) - Clinton would encourage them but not meet with Raul Castro (or whoever the leader is) until they make some positive steps. Obama would encourage them and also meet with the leader without preconditions. (I kinda like this better, as a meeting could bring about change, right?) He also called for a loosening of travel restrictions for family members and sending-money-back-to-relatives restrictions. Clinton believes in diplomacy but still wouldn't meet with Raul w/o some progress.

Economy: Let me just say here that I'm pretty sure the president doesn't have that much of an effect on the economy, or at least a predictable one. But, anyway, Obama would stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, end the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy and give a middle-class tax cut (sounded like removing the payroll tax on incomes less than $75000 which would mean an extra $1000 or so). Trade with high labor and environmental standards. He points out that his and Clinton's policies are pretty similar, but he will form a "working coalition for change". Clinton: Yup, remove tax loopholes and cuts on wealthy, environmental standards for trade, also a 90 day moratorium on foreclosures. And ending "George Bush's war on science" (THANK YOU!) and become the "innovation nation" (not a big fan of that phrase) that we used to be.

Immigration: Gah, I care little about this. But: Clinton is for comprehensive immigration reform, path to legalization. Obama: yup, also tone down the ugly rhetoric (thank you), crack down on employers, make illegal immigrants learn English, pay a fine, go to the back of the line. Fix the legal immigration system - too many fees, takes too long. Improve our relationship with Mexico and the Mexican economy (I'll say here that I'm pretty skeptical the US president can fix the Mexican economy, but whatever).

Border fence: Argh, I care even less about this, but it does apply to Texas I guess. Anyway, Clinton voted for it, but wants to do it in a smart way, not a dumb way. May be places where a physical border is appropriate, but would review with people who live along the border. We could also use smart fencing (cameras, I assume) instead of an actual fence if we have enough people there. Obama: almost entirely agrees. We can't deport 12 million people. Supports the Dream Act (allows children of illegal immigrants to go to college or something like that) - big applause. Doesn't want two classes of citizens in the US.

Downside to the US becoming a bilingual nation: This is kind of a weird question, but I guess it ties in to bilingual education. Clinton: good for people to be bilingual. English should remain our "common unifying language", but doesn't agree with making English the national language. (thank you) Obama: it's important that everyone learn English, every student should learn a second language. Failure of No Child Left Behind: wants to put more resources in teaching languages.

Commercial break. At this point I just want the immigration questions to stop because I don't care. But I guess people do or something.

Is Obama "all hat no cattle": That's a harsh question, but I guess John King wants some fireworks. Clinton: President Bush is all hat no cattle, next president shouldn't be. There are differences between Obama & me. I offer solutions. Thought it was funny that Obama representative (Texas State Senator Kirk Watson, I believe) couldn't name a single legislative accomplishment. (seriously, bad Watson!) Obama: I've acted a lot, tax breaks to families, reform criminal justice system, pass a bill on transparency in government, health care to veterans in Walter Reed. Clinton has a "fine record", implies that his voters are "somehow delusional". Endorsed by every major newspaper in Texas (wow). We share policy, but we need to be able to inspire people to get involved in government, etc.

Plagiarism of Deval Patrick's speeches: This is an idiotic issue, but Clinton did raise it, so I guess it's fair game. Obama: Issue is two lines in speeches I've been giving over the last couple of weeks. Patrick is national co-chair of his campaign and suggested an argument that he shares (the "words matter" phrase). This is "silly season" in politics. (big applause) People don't care about crap like that, they care about getting things done. Tuition credit for students, changing tax code, ending war in Iraq - these are actual proposals. We should be having a debate on the issues. (yes, yes, yes!) Clinton: If your candidacy is about words, they should be your own words. Lifting whole passages from speeches isn't "change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox". (big boos from the audience here, thankfully, and Obama protested a little) Not enough to say we need to come together, we're gonna have to work hard. My health care plan covers everyone, yours leaves out 15 million people. (I do appreciate she changed tack to a real issue) You are against moratorium on home foreclosures, which even Bush is considering. We will need to overcome entrenched opposition to our ideas. When I took on health care in 93 and 94, was against huge special interest opposition. Obama: Happy to debate issues. Clinton said that they all wanted universal health care; of course he was down 20 points in the polls. Plans are 95% the same. Cut costs with prevention. Philosophical difference: Clinton wants to force everyone to get health care, Obama believes the only reason people don't have it is that they can't afford it. We can have a legitimate debate, but his plan doesn't leave 15 million people without insurance. Also, the way Clinton did health care in 93 and 94 was the wrong way, since she didn't consult with people who had different ideas, so it was more difficult to get Congress to cooperate. If we don't change how the politics work, we'll be back here in 4 years again debating how to do the same thing.

Commercial break, although Clinton clearly wanted to respond to this.

Is Obama ready to be commander in chief?: Clinton: Well, I'm ready and prepared. But, back to health care! Obama says it's a philosophical difference, I think it's substantive. He has a mandate for parents to insure children, which is good, but if we don't require everyone to have health insurance the insurance companies will game the system. Everyone with insurance will pay a hidden tax of $900 to cover those without insurance. John Edwards made great point: Social Security and Medicare, great accomplishments, were mandatory. If you don't start out with universal health care you will be "nibbled to death". Obama: Understand it's a mandate on people, not on the government. Massachusetts currently has a mandate, they've exempted 20% of the people who they think can't pay it. In some cases people are paying a fine and don't have insurance so they're worse off than before. If you're going to force them to have insurance you need harsh penalties. This is a substantive difference. Clinton: Fundamentally disagree. Number one issue people talk to me about. Obama's plan has a mandate on parents because he recognizes if we don't have some kind of restriction, we won't get there. Obama: Not true that I'm interested in leaving out 15 million people.

Well, that was fun. Let's reask the last question.

Are you suggesting Obama isn't ready to be commander in chief?: Clinton: for more than 15 years I've represented the US in more than 80 countries, stood up for human rights. Have served on Senate Armed Forces committee. This week is good example: elections in Pakistan, leadership change in Cuba, Kosovo declaring independence, embassy set on fire in Serbia. We have opportunities with Cuba and Musharraf. I supported independence of Kosovo. I am prepared and ready on day 1 to be commander in chief. Obama: wouldn't be running if I didn't think I were prepared. Number one job will be to keep American people safe from harm, won't hesitate to act. We need strongest military on earth, which means proper training and rotations. Some people doing 2 and 3 and 4 tours in Iraq. Also means using military wisely; I showed good judgement opposing Iraq war, Clinton was wrong. That has big consequences, distracted us from Afghanistan. Rifle platoon that went to Afghanistan had people leaving for Iraq, didn't have enough ammunition. I didn't oppose Iraq for the sake of opposing it, did it because it would distract from Afghanistan, fan flames of anti-American sentiment. I was right. On Pakistan, mistake to put all our eggs in Musharraf's basket. I have shown judgment to lead.

Is Iraq better off because of the surge?: Tricky question. Clinton: The rationale for the surge was to create time for Iraqi government to make decisions, and that hasn't been done. Would begin withdrawing troops within 60 days, give message to Iraqis that they don't have a blank check. Obama: Indisputable that violence has been reduces in Iraq. Tactical victory imposed on huge strategic blunder. When debating with McCain, easier for person who opposed going to war to debate that decision than to argue about tactics. Still need to care for veterans better, but $12 billion per month for Iraq makes that hard.

Commercial break!

Y'all are for transparency in government, why put earmarks in budget?: He said Obama has refused to say what the earmarks were for. Obama: That's not true, we've disclosed earmarks. Believes strongly in transparency; passed bill with Tom Coburn (conservative Republican) to create "Google for government", a searchable database of federal spending. (this is a great idea!) There are worthy projects in the states and that's what my earmarks were for. Wants to make sure people are willing to defend those earmarks in the light of day. Moderator: will it be hard to tackle this with McCain, who's never asked for an earmark? (wow, I didn't know that) Clinton: No, because he supported wasteful tax cuts and expensive war with Iraq. Bush came into office with surplus, now it's gone. Will get us back to fiscal responsibility, Bush tax cuts on rich will expire.

Superdelegates: Will it be a problem for the party if it comes down to superdelegates? Clinton: These are the rules, but it will sort itself out, I'm not worried. Obama: Important that primaries and caucuses count, but will of voters will determine the nominee. Next nominee will have a lot to talk about re health care, etc.

What was the moment that tested you most?: Obama: Not a single moment, but my father left when I was two, made mistakes in youth, brought people together as a community organizer. Clinton: Obviously I've lived through some crises. People ask how I did it, but it's really nothing compared to what ordinary Americans have to go through. (veterans, etc.) Honored to be sharing stage with Obama, no matter what happens we'll be fine. Hope we can say the same for American people.


I'm living in my own private Idaho
Mood: frustrated
Posted on 2008-02-21 15:20:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 51

Debate is tonight. Check out this sweet donut-shaped poll!

I get to play Ultimate tonight - hopefully the rain will hold off.

In West Wing, Matt Santos was based on Barack Obama! And not like "is similar to" but like "the writer called up an Obama aide to learn more about him".


oh, you lovable scamps
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-02-18 14:01:00
Tags: politics
Words: 92

I have seen an Obama TV ad! I heard an Obama radio ad! The Alamo Drafthouse is showing the debate in Austin! Is this what it feels like to live in Iowa or New Hampshire? Because then I totally understand their being jerks about always going first.

Preordered Smash Bros today, and confirmed the Gamestop at the Arboretum will be open at midnight.(although it sounded like all the Gamestops might be)

Learning Django, and rewriting my wish list site. It's a little trickier than I had expected but a pretty neat framework.


happy v-day!
Mood: creative
Posted on 2008-02-14 10:13:00
Tags: haskell programming politics links
Words: 272

Appropriately, the ban on selling sex toys in Texas was overturned (although it doesn't take effect until March). I swear, the laws we pass in this state. I wonder if there's a count somewhere of which state has had the most laws overturned by a federal court?

I think my stomachache yesterday was caused by the large mocha (four shots of espresso!) I had in the morning to try to curb my headache. Then I wasn't hungry for lunch, then I was very hungry for dinner. Anyway, that's all sorted out, and my head is doing significantly better. I slept much better than I thought I would. Hooray!

From this article about Clinton campaigning in Texas:

Delia Guajardo, 63, a retired administrative secretary, was among several in the crowd who said they don't foresee Obama swaying them: "Just the Obama name scares me. It's not a common name."
Seriously? Seriously?? Maybe that's why Kucinich never wins the primary?

Apparently the right way to read binary files in Haskell is to use this BitSyntax library. bitSyn is totally awesome but I wish I knew how it worked - the source is available but it uses some crazy template stuff. (here's an example of parsing a JPEG file with it) I think what I need to do is work on two projects - one in Haskell or O'CaML or whatever crazy language strikes my fancy and another in Python or C++ or something I know better to keep from losing my mind. Maybe I'll give Django another shot!

The writer's strike ended! Clinton and Obama will debate at UT next Thursday! (although good luck finding tickets...)


Mood: irritated
Posted on 2008-02-10 14:36:00
Tags: phone pictures camerapics house politics
Words: 447

Yesterday djedi's parents were around and we got a lot of stuff taken care of with the house. One of the more annoying things was countertops. Long story short: I don't recommend buying countertops from Home Depot. So we went back and forth looking at different materials at Lowe's (like this one) and Home Depot. Really, they were about comparable in quality and price, but Home Depot's were $300 off, so we measured the countertops (as seen in this crappy cameraphone picture) and took it to Home Depot.

Well, they charge by the square foot, but what they don't say is that they charge for the waste material too - so we get charged for all the extra runoff in the crazy corners and stuff, and you pay for the space the sink takes up even though no countertops go there. That alone increased the cost around 50%. Then, you get charged for them to take away the existing countertops, which is I guess reasonable but they didn't say anything when we were there the first time so we had no idea. Also, we're leaving the nice tile backsplash in but I guess it's more work for the installers to work around it, so that's an extra $150. And the guy said that sometimes they have problems and it may be unavoidable that they damage it, so I thought that $150 covered the "expected cost" of fixing it. As it turns out, no, if they mess it up they don't fix it at all. Lovely.

On top of that, it's our responsibility to disconnect and remove the sink before installation and put it back and replace and reconnect it afterwards. And, as if spending $4K on countertops wasn't enough, they charged us $1 per "rounded corner" for a total of $7. Seriously.

Compared with this, buying carpet from Lowe's was easy easy easy and I would totally recommend that over Home Depot. Blargh.

Since countertops were way more expensive than we thought we're going to pack our stuff ourselves. We'll set a date when we hear about carpet but if you have boxes and/or a free evening to help us pack, we would be very grateful!

I'm liking having a cameraphone, although the quality of the pictures isn't great: a sign seen at closing (I guess the point is they don't get paid if you don't close so they make you comfortable - we were repeatedly offered drinks, they had plenty of pens, etc.), a sign in the wire aisle of Home Depot.

Tomorrow I leave for Houston for work. Whee!

Obama cleaned up yesterday, winning with 68% in Washington and Nebraska and 57% in Louisiana. Woohoo!


<a forced smile upon my face>
Mood: happy (forced)
Posted on 2008-02-05 09:52:00
Tags: politics
Words: 74

despite the fact that work sucked yesterday AND I discovered I have to amend my tax return because I got yet another 1099-DIV from TIAA-CREF. Boo, TIAA-CREF. Boo.

The good news is either Hillary or Obama is running away with California! Those are some seriously crazy poll numbers for the day of. I seem to remember SurveyUSA being more reliable in the past, but there's plenty of room for them both to be wrong.

1 comment

laptop debate
Mood: confused
Posted on 2008-02-04 14:39:00
Tags: pictures guildwars worldofwarcraft mac computer politics
Words: 244

The Mac continues to get better. Three days after spilling a ton of tea on it the screen is all better, the fan no longer spins crazily, and the battery charges normally. (which may have been happening all along but I was suspicious for a while) Unfortunately, the only problem is that the "v" key (and maybe the Control key) don't work at all. So I guess I'll have to take it in and see if they can fix it, which honestly is pretty doubtful.

Assuming it can't be fixed, I'm leaning towards not replacing it since we don't play WoW much anymore (we picked up Guild Wars over the weekend...we'll see if we continue playing or not) and I just bought the damn thing. I am getting back a big ol' tax refund since I deducted a bunch of moving expenses, although the Maryland state tax situation is a little more unclear. (if there online calculator is right, which I don't think it is, I owe $500 and will be very miffed)

The cover of a romance novel I saw at HEB - thanks, cameraphone!

A work friend has an imported version of Smash Bros and I get to play it tomorrow night. I am extremely excited.

Super Tuesday is tomorrow! Some polls look really good for Obama, others look less good, so who knows. Not sure how I'll keep up with results while playing Smash Bros tomorrow night, but I'll think of something!


MacBook Pro: October 17, 2007 - ?
Mood: anxious
Music: Radiohead - "Sulk"
Posted on 2008-01-31 07:59:00
Tags: work house worldofwarcraft mac computer politics links
Words: 366

While kicking butt in Arathi Basin last night, I knocked a big ol' glass of tea right onto my $3000 laptop. A good chunk of it went in the keyboard (which made the laptop turn off which is probably a good thing given the alternatives), so djedi hurriedly mopped as much as we could off, disconnected it and moved it to higher ground. (it's currently sitting upside-down on our dining room table in the hopes that it will drain or something) I didn't have the heart to try to turn it on this morning - guess I'll see about that tonight. I did buy the AppleCare for it, although I don't know if that covers spills or not.

The weird thing was that I wasn't super panicked or angry or whatever. I was upset at myself, but I know that I'm prone to clumsiness when I'm tired. (like when I burned my thumb on the oven last week!) And if the laptop is unrecoverable, well, that would suck, but I could get by for iPod syncing and WoW playing and whatnot. It would be nice if it worked though.

Ironically, I was just yesterday reading about jwz's backup strategy and thinking it sounded like a good idea. Not that I had anything particularly interesting on the laptop data-wise (I always back up my iTunes database), but still...

Other than that, work has been going really really well this week. My mom visits next Wednesday, Friday we close on our house (!), and that weekend djedi's parents are coming to hopefully buy carpet for us and stuff, which will be quite helpful.

I'm going to miss campaigning in Florida, specifically hearing about Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani saying that English should be the national language, and then advertising in Spanish. That's some good hypocrisy, there. Via dailykos, an article in Rolling Stone about how Republican's immigrant-bashing is not going to help them, especially in the Southwest.

Finally, on the way home I heard this kinda-brutal story on NPR about how Giuliani should have taken his advice from his leadership book, complete with excerpts from the audiobook itself. (it's the story on top, not the longer story on the bottom)

1 comment

a collection of links that suddenly accumulated in my firefox tabs
Mood: hopeful
Music: Radiohead - "15 Step"
Posted on 2008-01-29 13:04:00
Tags: activism programming politics links
Words: 245

5 attributes of highly effective programmers - the title is cheesy, but it's a very good article, and it quotes The Screwtape Letters which was a nice surprise. Also on that site is The Effective Software Developer's Book List which is an impressive collection.

For Gay Democrats, a Primary Where Rights Are Not an Issue, This Time - the headline says most of it, except for this gem:

In an address last week honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a black church in Atlanta, Senator Obama made waves by lecturing the audience about homophobia. “We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them,” he said during the speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King served as co-pastor with his father.

Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay lobbying group, said he thought Mr. Obama’s speech was the first time a presidential candidate had brought up gay issues in front of a nongay audience without being prompted to do so. “This is dramatically refreshing,” he said. “It’s a great day when we can look at a field of candidates and determine that we are comfortable with all of them on gay rights and move on to other issues.”
Awesome! (via dailykos)

I saw this press release from the National Organization of Women (NY chapter) about how Ted Kennedy betrayed women by supporting Obama instead of Clinton. It made me angry, until this rebuttal made me feel better.


blah, screw it
Mood: blah
Posted on 2008-01-28 09:57:00
Tags: getflix politics
Words: 194

Another session of being frustrated at my getflix project has led me to give up the idea, possibly forever. Not only is it frustrating to do,

- I have a lot fewer movie ratings than music ratings, and I don't think the statistics are going to be particularly interesting
- The only way to get the data out of Netflix is screen-scraping (looking for particular text in the HTML) which is a) certainly against the Terms of Service b) very fragile to Netflix changing things, even small things, which means that I would have to keep maintaining it, which is pretty certainly not going to happen, so it has a limited lifespan anyway

So, begone! Next project might involve Django (per spchampion's suggestion) if I can think of something interesting to do with it.

Go Obama! He won the South Carolina primary by a wide margin, and won the coveted endorsements from Edward Kennedy, JFK's daughter, and xkcd. (not to mention Lawrence Lessig, who now focuses on anti-corruption issues) We'll see if he's able to compete on Super Tuesday (a week from tomorrow). This is the most exciting primary season in my admittedly short political life :-)


I do not heart huckabee
Mood: annoyed
Posted on 2008-01-18 10:19:00
Tags: rant politics
Words: 237

Dear Mike Huckabee,

Hi! How's it going? Is it OK if I call you Mike? Great. Anyway, Mike, I read you had something to say about marriage. Something like this:

Well, I don’t think that’s a radical view to say we’re going to affirm marriage. I think the radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal.

Oh, Mike, Mike, Mike. Have you been hanging out with Rick Santorum? He didn't get reelected, you know. Also, changing the definition of marriage to mean a man and animal would be radical - I'll agree with you there! (also, nice possible swipe at Romney with the "a man and three women" bit; very clever!) But I don't think anyone is seriously arguing for that. I also had a feeling that, were I a major candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination and I said something grouping in Christianity with Judaism, Islam, Scientology, and David Koresh-ism, I would be flame-roasted by the media even if I wasn't directly comparing them.

Since apparently there's some confusion on this point, let me give it to you straight, Mike ("straight" - get it?) - I am gay and I don't want the right to get married to/have sex with animals. Can we please stop equating the two?



caucus night
Mood: cold
Posted on 2008-01-03 23:20:00
Tags: election essay house politics
Words: 216

The short version: Obama wins, Edwards just barely beats Clinton for second. Huckabee wins on the Republican side.

Back in 2003, I was a huge Dean supporter. I got to shake his hand (this was back in April when he was pretty unknown), went to Meetups for him and wrote letters to voters in Iowa, sent him lots of money, went down to San Antonio for a rally wearing my Dean shirt and hat, etc., etc. When he lost in Iowa and then the whole Dean Scream nonsense, it broke my heart. I did get behind Kerry, not terribly enthusiastically, but what's the alternative, right? His loss broke my heart too, but in a smaller way.

Anyway, I feel a little bad that I wasn't backing a particular candidate, because I don't want to lose my passion...but in the end it's really hard to tell who would make the best President. They're all pretty good, and I'd be happy if any of them got elected. (even Gravel...think of what an entertaining four years that would make!)

Tomorrow night: movie
Saturday: drive to Houston, do a bachelor party
Sunday: drive back to Austin earlyish, meet djedi's parents and look at houses. Maybe decide to make an offer on the one we like. That would be pretty neat.


happy caucus day!
Mood: curious
Posted on 2008-01-03 09:11:00
Tags: election politics links
Words: 154

And remember, caucuses aren't elections nor particularly democratic (with a lowercase "d"), so when whoever wins try not to get too excited even though presumably the media will crown him/her tomorrow morning because it's not like the media has a blatant interest in making the caucuses overly-relevant with their millions of dollars in media ads.

Also, I will say to supporters of Hillary what my mom said to me about Howard Dean in 2004 (paraphrased and mostly remembered): "Son, feel free to support whoever you want, but if Dean wins the nomination and then loses to Bush you're in big trouble".

I heard this interesting story on NPR on the way to work: a study seems to suggest the placebo effect can make you lose weight and lower blood pressure, although there are some other possible explanations. Interesting stuff, the placebo effect.

100 things we didn't know last year from the BBC (via kottke)


Gore coverage in 2000
Mood: angry
Posted on 2007-12-11 10:49:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 29

Excellent article about media coverage of Gore in 2000. (via kottke) It may make you angry. Remember this when the inevitable trivial stories start coming out about the nominees.

1 comment

Mood: worried
Posted on 2007-12-05 09:45:00
Tags: politics
Words: 226

The big news two days ago was that the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) (PDF summary) said that Iran stopped their military nuclear program in 2003. The big news yesterday was that President Bush held a press conference (I'd love to see a transcript including questions, but can't find one) in which he said Iran is still a threat. Which, of course, is possible, given that our NIEs have been wrong before (e.g. the one in 2005 that said Iran still had an active nuclear military program), but it's scary that he seems to just believe this even when our "most authoritative written judgments on national security issues" go against him. (he said a few things in the press conference that really drove this home; he believes it no matter what anyone else says, it seems) Also, there's some weirdness where Mike McConnell (the Director of National Intelligence) said there was some big news in August but didn't tell him what the news was and he didn't ask and didn't find out until October. That's mildly frightening.

Totally unrelated (or is it?), Gmail released support for colored labels and AIM integration, so you can chat on AIM through Google Chat. Neat! You may have to sign out and back in to see the changes. (I think they're being rolled out a little bit at a time)

1 comment

MD gay marriage (not!), leaving
Mood: bored
Posted on 2007-09-19 08:30:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 210

The Maryland Supreme Court upheld a ban on gay marriage in a 4-3 decision. Although the majority wrote "Our opinion should by no means be read to imply that the General Assembly may not grant and recognize for homosexual persons civil unions or the right to marry a person of the same sex", which is nice I guess. Maryland's gay marriage ban was passed in 1973 - that sounds pretty early. Anyway, boo.

I found this wonderful new feature in the Washington Post (how I shall miss thee!) this morning - Fact Checker, for checking claims that presidential candidates make. I wondered why nothing like this existed before. Sam Brownback's "In countries that have redefined marriage, where they've said, 'OK, it's not just a man and a woman, it can be two men, two women,' the marriage rates in those countries have plummeted to where you have counties now in northern Europe where 80 percent of the first-born children are born out of wedlock... And currently in this country -- currently -- we're at 36 percent of our children born out of wedlock." gets 3 out of 4 Pinocchios!

The packers are coming today (hopefully soon). It really feels like we're leaving our apartment now - all the walls being bare did it for me.


nukes, outing
Mood: okay
Posted on 2007-09-06 10:17:00
Tags: poll politics
Words: 191

I'm back at work today, feeling decentish. Took care of canceling utilities and setting up new ones yesterday, which is a load off of my mind. Also, my RFID blocking wallet came so I'm using that now. No more foil in my pants!

Air Force investigates mistaken transport of nuclear materials - yikes.

Per our earlier discussion, here's an article about the guy who's been outing anti-gay politicians. (there was a more biased version of the article in the Washington Post this morning) This isn't exactly the same since Craig was arrested and it seems like Mike Craig just brought that arrest to light, but it brings up the question:

My thoughts (no peeking before you vote!):This is no longer quite the issue it once was, since being gay in and of itself is fairly widely accepted these days. But after being closeted myself for a while, it put a big emotional strain on me to keep it a secret. I get the hypocricy angle, but I don't think outing is justified except in the most extreme situations. I'm also a big believer in keeping one's personal and work lives separate.


Sen. Larry Craig
Mood: busy
Posted on 2007-08-30 10:37:00
Tags: politics
Words: 60

(if you missed the story, see here)

These sort of situations always make me a little uncertain how to feel. I confess to a reaction of schadenfreude simply because he's a Republican. Not good, I know. I'm also sympathetic because it seems fairly clear that he's closeted. (or at least, was) But with the whole hypocrisy angle...blah. (Tom Toles cartoon)


take me out to the ballgame
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-06-28 13:06:00
Tags: baseball politics
Words: 298

djedi and I went to the Orioles-Yankees game last night. It was fun! Roger Clemens was pitching for the Yankees (which I didn't know when I bought the tickets, but a nice surprise), and it was a good game.

- There were a lot of Yankees jerseys and Yankees fans there. I'd say (judging by the noise of the crowd) probably about half and half. Wasn't expecting that.

- The temperature at first pitch was a sweltering 97 degrees (when this was announced there was a lot of ooohing, as Baltimore isn't supposed to be that hot!)

- At the "O" of "O say does that star-spangled...", everyone yelled "O!", presumably for the Orioles. I thought this was weird. (I don't remember the Houston Rockets doing that...)

- The next section over, an old guy fainted (or something) during the first inning (presumably due to heat stroke or something). The medical people got there very quickly, brought some ice, and eventually carted him off. He was talking, so it didn't look too bad.

- They had a scoreboard race between innings with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish. (go Mustard!) Pretty standard fare, except they printed season statistics beforehand! ("Ketchup started off slowly winning 2 of the first 13, but then went on a tear winning 4 of the next 6") Awesomeness.

- During the seventh inning stretch, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was not sung! Unconscionable. (some country song was, which would have been appropriate afterwards, like the Astros do with "Deep in the Heart of Texas")

O's won 4-0 (take that, Yankees fans!) in a real pitcher's duel.

Dems force Cheney to flip-flop on secret docs - apparently defunding his office was threat enough for him to stop claiming he's not in the executive branch. (although he's still not giving up his secret papers)


Cheney series at Washington Post
Mood: awake
Posted on 2007-06-26 09:36:00
Tags: politics
Words: 62

Wow, the Washington Post is doing quite the series on Cheney. Here's the chapter I found most interesting. (may require registration, use bugmenot if you must)

In response to Cheney's claim that the Office of the Vice President is not in the executive branch (um, right), Rahm Emanuel wants to stop allocating it money from the executive branch. Sounds fair to me.


Is the weekend here yet?
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2007-02-02 09:46:00
Tags: microresolution politics links
Words: 306

Thanks again for all of your help on writing that letter! I forgot to mention my impressions on Google Docs & Spreadsheets, which I used to compose it. I didn't try the spreadsheet part (except for a minute), but the word processing part is pretty neat. It has some rich-text options (fonts, colors, bullets, etc.), and it keeps a revision history so it's pretty intuitive to see what changes you've made. You can also save in a bunch of different formats. I'd be curious as to how the collaboration works. Anyway it seems more than adequate for something simple like writing a letter.

To make things interesting, I'm going to add another microresolution. I have a World of Warcraft auctioneer price lookup that doesn't work with the new version of Auctioneer. Microresolution: make it work again by next Friday. We'll see if having multiple microresolutions out at the same time is feasible or makes me fail to complete any of them :-)

Current position of my pages in a search for "microresolution" on:
Google: #3!
Yahoo: not present
MSN: #1!!
Ask.com: #6
The main competitors seem to be pages talking about microscopes and such.

Funny quote in this article about the mayor of San Francisco admitting to an affair with his aide's wife:

Tom Abbott, 36, an executive recruiter, said that having an affair with a loyal aide's wife was "a total slimeball move."

"Any guy who puts that much mousse in his hair can't be trusted," Abbott said. "You don't screw over your own boys."

However, Abbott said, he would probably vote for Newsom.

Venezuelan lawmakers just gave President Hugo Chavez authority to enact sweeping measures by decree. This is a little worrisome. Maybe Venezuelan "President" Hugo Chavez from now on?

I got a nice email from a Google recruiter - if anyone's interested, drop me an email!


just a day, just an ordinary day...
Mood: stressed
Posted on 2006-12-13 08:30:00
Tags: ljbackup politics links
Words: 465

On the way in to work this morning, I heard an editorial on Marketplace. (by David Frum, a former speechwriter for President Bush) He decried "populist economics" (basically the protectionist aspects of them) and sounded concerned since Democrats had just been elected. He said that, if they caused just half a percentage point of growth to disappear, that would be the equivalent of losing New Mexico's economic output, and in 20 years (assuming everything else stayed the same...) our economic advantage over China would be down to 3:2. But it was weird, because he never ever said a word about why assuming half a percentage point of growth would be lost was at all reasonable or anything. I'll excerpt from this Fire Joe Morgan post:

Then he said that maybe if Burnett hadn't mouthed off last year and been benched for the last week of the season, who knows, maybe 5 years $55 million could have been 5 years $75 million. Then, without backing that up, he then proceeded to chastise AJ Burnett for what he labeled a "$20 million dollar mistake."

You can't just make something up out of nowhere and then use the made-up thing to criticize someone for something that actually happened.

Maybe if Paul Konerko had not only hit 40 HR last year but has also invented a cold fusion machine, instead of $60 million from the ChiSox he might have gotten $50 billion from the government. That's a $49.994 billion mistake.

Hee hee. I love that blog!

Speaking of good blogs, Raymond Chen of The Old New Thing has written a book that I want. I'd ask for it for Christmas, but it's coming out just afterwards. Bad timing, publisher! The Old New Thing is an excellent, excellent blog on Windows programming that explains why a lot of the things in Windows are the way the are. (the answer is almost always "backwards compatibility", in case you were wondering :-) ) I don't even do much Windows programming anymore and I still try to keep up with it...

Last night I was working on LJBackup, and was trying to get the stupid AJAX piece (using prototype.js which I'm not terribly familiar with) to do a form POST correctly to a Ruby CGI script (also shaky ground for me). I got so darn frustrated I pounded my desk in frustration, and then my computer fan started making a scaryish noise. And then, when I tapped (fine, "hit") the computer to stop that, the hard drive started going "click...click....click" which scared the heck out of me, so I had to Alt-SysRq-B to get it to reboot. And then everything was fine. And then I gave up for the night and played Wii Tennis and got to the Pro level. So there!

Flu shot today!


Safe-wii first!
Mood: cold
Posted on 2006-12-05 19:25:00
Tags: ljbackup wii politics links
Words: 128

The Japanese Wii manuals safety pictures are hilarious! So darn cute. And here are some equally cute fake Wii safety pictures! I still don't have one, though.

I put up a new version of a sample LJbackup - the only thing of note is the stats page now includes the longest posts. Interestingly, my longest posts is a friends-only meme I posted, probably because the word counting is pretty primitive and inaccurate (counting HTML tags as words, etc.)

Same-sex marriage appeal in Maryland was argued yesterday. It's pretty neat being in a state where this is even remotely possible! Here's a fun quote:

"Our laws should reflect what is best for children, not what is best for adults," she said.

Awesome. Everyone: sex is outlawed! Think of the children!!!


Kojo Nnamdi is ruining my diet!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2006-10-26 13:19:00
Tags: weight politics
Words: 219

Seriously. His show is on the radio from 12-2, and I love listening to it (mostly because of his voice) so I went out and grabbed lunch yesterday instead of having soup like a good boy. I did resist the temptation today, but it was tough!

In case you didn't hear, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state legislature must provide marriage or a marriage equivalent to gay couples within 180 days. Why this is especially good news:

- Because they allowed for the possibility of civil unions, I've read that this means the political impact will be less than it otherwise would.
- It was a 4-3 ruling...the 3 dissenting opinions were that they should extend full mariage rights to gays without kicking it back to the state legislature!
- It looks like the opponents of this decision are going to push for a state constitutional amendment in 2007, but by then the law will have been in effect for at least 6 months and the sky won't have fallen, so I doubt it will pass.
- Apparently the plaintiffs are Episcopal pastors - neat!
- New Jersey (unlike Massachusetts) doesn't require people getting married there to live in the state.
- New Jersey is like 3 hours away by car!!

Here's a neat map of laws and benefits in all 50 states

1 comment

NJ marriage decision tomorrow!
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2006-10-24 17:31:00
Tags: politics
Words: 55

The New Jersey supreme court is going to announce their decision about gay marriage tomorrow! The ruling will come down at 3:00 EST, and it will be here after that, although the Lambda Legal site may be a friendlier place to check (I'm not even sure of the name of the case offhand). Here's hoping!


/slap someone
Mood: tired
Posted on 2006-10-15 00:01:00
Tags: politics
Words: 222

First of all, I love getting the Washington Post in the mornings - it's a quality newspaper!

This passage that I read this morning (from this article) made me want to punch someone, though:

At 7 p.m. Sunday, evangelical leaders including Perkins and Dobson plan to broadcast a 90-minute television special from a Boston church to hundreds of other churches across the country in an attempt to keep religious conservatives from sitting out the election.

Called "Liberty Sunday," it will "highlight specific cases and stories where people's religious liberties have been threatened because of homosexual activism and gay marriage in Massachusetts," said Family Research Council spokeswoman Bethanie Swendsen.

(emphasis added)

Oho, so people's religious liberties have been threatened because of gays gaining rights? I know it's a good strategy to portray your group as being oppressed, but firstly, gays aren't saying you can't practice Christianity. Actually, that wouldn't be threatening someone's personal liberty, but gays aren't lobbying for a law to be passed outlawing Christianity.

Also, for fun you can spin most of the civil rights advances of the last century in this way! Weren't white bigots's liberties being threatened when blacks wanted the right to vote? Or people who didn't want interracial couples to be able to marry?

(I was going to continue on in this vein, but you get the point)


Democratic primary happenings
Mood: happy
Posted on 2006-08-09 13:05:00
Tags: politics
Words: 129

So there were some big Democratic primaries yesterday. The most widely watched one was Connecticut senator, where newcomer Ned Lamont beat 18-year senator Joe Lieberman by 51.7%-48.3% (or something close to that). This is huge, because sitting senators baaaarely ever lose in the primary. Anyway, Lieberman announced he was going to run as an independent in the general election, thus proving he's in it for himself rather than his party. Democrats are standing behind the primary winner, luckily. I sure hope he doesn't win.

Also, Cynthia McKinney lost her primary - woohoo! Although it should be noted she lost her primary in 2002 (after implying the Bush administration knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand and allowed them to happen to profit off of them), so maybe she'll be back someday.


minimum wage shenanigans
Mood: unsure
Posted on 2006-08-04 09:36:00
Tags: politics
Words: 116

So the House passed a bill a few days ago that would increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25. What the hell, you say? Did the Republicans see the light? Well, no. That bill also included a permanent cut in the estate tax, which would cost around $753 billion over 10 years (and affect fewer than 10,000 people). It failed in the Senate when most Democrats wouldn't support it.

Guh. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Had I been voting, I would have been very tempted to vote for the bills. I'm surprised the Democrats were able to hold the line so well...

Man, I can't wait to live in a blue state!


bad news, good news
Mood: calm
Posted on 2006-06-29 14:35:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 325

Random news items that have left me thinking recently:

Bad news - High court upholds most of Texas redistricting map. The Supreme Court ruled that it is essentially OK for state legislatures to redraw Congressional districts whenever they want, and not just every 10 years (after the Census) as required by law. This to me is really horrible news. A Daily Kos article opines that the Democrats should take advantage and do this in states where the state legislature is more Democratic than the congressional delegation. I consider this whole thing to be a non-trivial threat to democracy. Guh.

Good news - High court blocks Gitmo military tribunals (CNN really likes to refer to the supreme court as "high court", apparently :-) ) This is a big rebuke to Bush's claim that, since we're at war, he has broad overarching powers to hold people as enemy combatants. Andrew Sullivan points out the court seems to have reinstated the Geneva Conventions in the "war on terror", which is also good.

Bad news - Israel hits Gaza as Hamas lawmakers held. This has been a rapidly-escalating series of attacks between Israel and Palestine and it looks like things are getting much worse. This latest conflagration started when Palestinian militants kidnapped an Israeli soldier, and they have killed an Israeli settler since then. To put pressure on the Syrian president to stop aiding Hamas, Israeli fighters buzzed his home yesterday (anti-aircraft guns fired on them). Scary stuff.

Good news - Buffett to give away billions. Warren Buffett is giving away $30+ billion dollars, most of it to the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. The Gates foundation does great stuff in global health and education, and $30 billion dollars goes a looong way. Good for him!

I read this great speech by Barack Obama - it's a little long, but very powerful. The last 10 paragraphs or so I liked a lot for personal reasons. I hope he runs for president in 2008 or 2012 or sometime...


recent happenings-on
Mood: peaceful
Music: U2 - "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own"
Posted on 2006-06-07 09:10:00
Tags: politics
Words: 453

The Senate votes on the Federal Marriage Amendment today, which will not pass. On NPR on Wednesday, I heard a good series of stories about it, including a fiery speech by Harry Reid (D-NV, Minority Leader in the Senate) decrying the amount of time being spent on it since it has no chance of passing. Update - it failed 49-48, (so only 49 senators voted for it). Only one more person voted for it than in 2004, despite the fact there are 5 more Republicans in the Senate, and the AP calls it an "embarrassing defeat to President Bush". Woohoo!! (and I'll stop updating this post now)

Something I've been forgetting to mention - I got a summons for jury duty! I'm very excited. Unfortunately they have this new online system to sign up, which worked great, but I feel like I missed out on part of the experience. No matter - it's apparently a new system that isn't used many places. Anyway, I'm scheduled to serve sometime in mid-July (I'll find out more details before then)- w00t!

Went to the Round Rock Express game last night with Doug and Lucas - Teresa was supposed to come, but little Timmy had had a long day and was very tired and cranky, so she stayed home with him. We only ended up staying a few innings since Lucas was tired, too, but it was a lot of fun. It was a beautiful night, and it's very relaxing sitting in the grass behind the outfield wall. Also, Lucas was in a very inquisitive mood, but in a cute way, not an annoying one. We had quite the conversation when I was driving him to pick up Doug from Dell :-)

After reading "Baseball Between the Numbers" (a birthday present - thanks, Mom and Dad!), I fired up the old Win Expectancy Finder data to figure out what the expected number of runs in an inning is, given the current situation. Got the data collected, now I just need to write a frontend to it.

So after my bold statement of my goal, getting sound working on my computer was quite easy. For posterity, I have an MSI RD480 Neo2 motherboard, which has an onboard Realtek ALC880. All I had to do was download the Linux drivers, untar and run the install script. Dunno why that didn't work last time, but whatever.

Also, Google announced Google Spreadsheets yesterday. I signed up and got in - if anyone wants to try it out I can let you share my spreadsheet. It looks neat, but I couldn't think of anything to put in a spreadsheet. Also, I finally got my invitation to Google Analytics so I've been playing around with that. Looots of stats available :-)


brain dump
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2006-05-15 09:56:00
Tags: ruby palmtogooglecalendar politics
Words: 957

Man, I have a lot of things on my mind!

So Prop 6 passed here in Austin (allowing the city to give health benefits to same-sex couples). I gotta say, it feels really good to finally win on a gay issue here in Texas. Yay!

djedi and I went to his brother's graduation in College Station Saturday morning. It was nice, although the ceremony itself was fairly boring (naturally) and it was fairly chilly inside. We went out to lunch afterwards and we got to meet his girlfriend, who was nice. I also took a toooon of pictures that I need to sort through at some point. A&M wasn't too scary - they say "Howdy" a lot (I could get used to that!), and there was some whooping, but it's all good. wonderjess graduates next weekend, so I'll be flying up to sunny (and hopefully not too cold!) Rochester on Friday.

So, going into the weekend the backend was written mostly (I could update my google calendar by running a ruby script from the command line), so I needed to put a web interface on top of it. This was tricky for a number of reasons.

First of all, the way I have to do authentication with Google right now, I have to ask for the user's Google username and password. They're working on a different way to do this, but for now this is what's required, so I wanted to make sure the page was using HTTPS to collect that information. I set up a certificate (that I signed myself - not worth paying $50 or whatever it costs to have someone else sign it) and after a few hiccups, got things working.

Then I started thinking about how this was actually going to work. The problem is that deleting and adding the entries will take at least 30 seconds, and sometimes much more, so I wanted an asynchronous way to do it. I had read some stuff about Comet, which is a bleeding edge application model. Basically, the idea is that the client opens a long lived connection to the server, and because of this the server can push back data whenever it wants (which isn't possible under normal HTTP). This sounded perfect, because I could connect to the server when the user pressed "Upload", and the server could send back progress updates while it was working, and have the client close the connection when it was done.

So, great. There are some problems. One is that web servers that aren't aware of a Comet-like approach don't scale this approach very well - having lots of connections open for a long time. That's OK for me, I'm not worried about too many people using this thing all at once :-) The other problem is that apparently it's hard to get working correctly. It was hard to find easy to understand examples that actually use this approach, and the one that I did find and understand relied on having the server basically return a text stream that gets progressively updated. I could not for the life of me make this happen correctly - it would wait until the whole thing was done, then display the whole stream, which obviously wouldn't work. I looked around for some other way to do this, and found a Mozilla/Firefox-only solution which was no good. So finally I threw up my hands and gave up on Comet for now. Maybe I'll take another look at it in the future.

So, I decided that the request to upload would finish quickly and return a session ID, and the client could call a script to get the status of that session every few seconds, which would simulate the same effect. This required some way to share session data across ruby processes, and CGI::Session turned out to be perfect for me - it by default stores session data in a file, so I can just read that file when I receive a request to get status.

Another problem was uploading the Datebook file itself - it's easy to do this using a normal HTML form, but because of security restrictions, Javascript can't read files off of the local drive (which makes sense...). So I couldn't use my normal trick of having the "submit" button have an onClick handler that sends the request, because that handler couldn't get the file data. Instead, I found out more information about the hidden IFRAME technique (which was used to do XMLHttpRequest-like things before XMLHttpRequest existed), so I'm having the form do a POST with its target set to the hidden IFRAME. This works well and I can receive the file on the other end - now I need a way of getting the session ID returned to the IFRAME to the parent document (the link I found this morning and looks like it will work well).

I was also baffled for a while that I was receiving the file correctly, and processing it with pilot-datebook, but the resulting file in longtxt format wasn't showing up. After butting heads with the problem for a while, I realized that I was using Tempfile to generate a temporary filename, but it was deleting the file as well, so that was an easy fix.

So most of the hard problems have been solved - I still need to do the processing and integrate that with status reports (and abstract that part out so I can still use the command-line version), and I need to handle errors better (at all :-) ), but I'm very happy with where things are right now.
...in short, things are going well.

Apparently having the NSA intercept domestic phone calls was Dick Cheney's idea, and NSA lawyers were against it.

51% of people disapprove of the domestic spying.


Mood: okay
Music: "Super Mario Galaxy" music
Posted on 2006-05-12 14:12:00
Tags: movies politics
Words: 406

Thank goodness. This week...not so good.

Why I love Fry's: the storm last Thursday night knocked out our wireless access point. So Wednesday after I work I popped over to Fry's to get a new one. After looking around for a while, the cheapest one I found was $70, and for that price I could get a wireless router, so I went ahead and got that (the last time our router died, we had an access point, so we got a router without wireless for about the same price, which was dumb). Aaaand I get to the register, and it's only $50! Unexpected price cuts - that's the way to go.

Video of Super Mario Galaxy - ooooooo I want this game!

We saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Republic Square Park last night (hosted by the Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow). It was nice, and the sound was turned up compared to last year so we could hear better. Lowlights were it starting an hour after they said it would (because it wasn't dark enough), lots of people smoking around us, and some jerks next to us who came in maybe half an hour in and started talking to each other (normal volume, mind you) about random crap. After 10 minutes or so, I said "shhh" and wildrice13 told them they were bothering us, so they left (and maybe apologized - I played the role of the person who doesn't interact with them). Oh, and Ben & Jerry's had a cart there so I got ice cream :-)

Tomorrow's David's brother's graduation, so we have to get up early early to make it to College Station by the time it starts. Oh, and Austin folk - don't forget to vote tomorrow! (vote for Prop 6, which would allow the city to give same-sex benefits to city employees)

(ooo, Firefox just crashed, but restored my almost-finished post. Woohoo!!)

Anyway, here's more information about election day, including polling locations and text of proposed amendments. I recommend yes on Prop 5 ($100 is way too low a personal limit to contribute to campaigns) and 6. I'm honestly not sure about Props 1 and 2 - need to read a bit more about them...

Also, I've been really really in the mood to program lately (at least for at-home projects). I'm not sure whether to give in and program a whole lot, or try to do other things until the urge passes. We'll see...


Feingold for president!
Mood: hungry
Posted on 2006-04-05 10:53:00
Tags: politics
Words: 6

Feingold says he supports gay marriage


I really don't understand
Mood: confused
Posted on 2006-04-04 13:04:00
Tags: politics
Words: 285

(based on the news story Congresswoman could face charges)

So, let me get this straight. A congresswoman walked past security, not wearing her pin that identifies her as a congresswoman. The security guard doesn't recognize her and stops her. She gets upset, and an altercation ensues.

Now she's upset - here are some choice quotes from the article:

"I don't understand exactly why it is that certain police officers have a problem remembering my face," McKinney said, noting that she is one of 14 black women among the 535 members of Congress. "The issue is racial profiling, and that's something that we're going to have to deal with as a country."

Well, there are 535 members of Congress - that's a lot for every single police officer to remember on sight. And racial profiling?? If you don't have identification and you walk past security and get stopped, that's not racial profiling - that's common sense. And suggesting that it is racial profiling is demeaning to those who have been targeted by racial profiling. (crying wolf and all that)

In her interview Monday with CNN's "The Situation Room," McKinney scoffed at suggestions that her change of hairstyle in January might have been the reason the officer did not recognize her.

"If the security of the House of Representatives of the United States is based on how members of Congress wear their hair ... I think this is really ridiculous," she said. "My face hasn't changed."

No, the security of the House of Representatives depends on identifying people that enter the building. If she did change her hairstyle and the officer then didn't recognize her, she should show identification. What's the big deal?

Does anyone understand this better? I'm totally confused.


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